Ansley Asher

writing thoughts

Archive for writer’s block

Inspiration Closer Than You Think

While browsing, I saw a link to something called “Leonard’s Everyday Inspirations” on msnbc.com. I don’t know if the title means that the inspirations come daily or if that means they’re common place. But in the video I saw, NBC News Correspondent Mike Leonard shares his tips for sniffing out great news stories by using the Yellow Pages. He talks about siren factories, dirt, and why planes aren’t painted blue–but mostly about how inspirational the phone book is.

At first I thought it was crazy. But the video really convinced me. I’d heard of people using the phone book as a source of character (or even pen) names, but not the yellow pages for topics. Maybe it will work for you!

Pruning the Vine of Creativity

Copyblogger is often extremely focused on, well, producing copy for blogs–no surprise there. But that means the advice they give isn’t easily applicable to fiction. Guest poster James Chartrand, however, polished up a little tool that has been in my own creativity toolbox for some time: Limiting yourself–your time, your ideas, your goals–to be more creative.

Perhaps creating a deadline (and sticking to it!) is what you need to give yourself a creative push. Or perhaps that blank page is giving you the illusion that the sky is the limit, and that’s intimidating. I’ll tell you that there is almost no way that you could write about absolutely anything at all. You will write about:

  • something that interests you... A pet. A person. Someone you wish you knew. Someone you wish you were.
  • in a place or setting that interests you… You’re not going to write 100,000 words about someplace you care nothing about. Unless you’re getting paid millions of dollars, I wager.
  • in a genre that interests you… You already know if you’re writing about John’s pet bunny or a serial killer. You already know you want to write middle grade or crime fiction. So you’re limited in that.
  • in a voice that interests you. How do you want to tell this story? Much will be determined by who is telling the story and why.

By realizing the limits that are already set, the story becomes the focus, and it’s easier to write. Now you can see the creativity lies in what your character says, why she says it, what she does, etc. within the constraints that make sense for the story you are trying to tell.

Of course you can throw all this out the window. Writing is an art, after all. But if you set some limits for yourself, the story just might come a little easier.

Happy writing!

Creativity – Write Those Bad Ideas Down

Are you only coming up with bad ideas?

That’s okay–write them down. Getting those bad ideas out of your head and recorded on paper will leave you free to rework them, or to come up with fresh new ideas. Forcing yourself to hold an idea in the back of your mind can restrict your ability to think of new, random ideas which might work better for you. You’ll also have those bad ideas for reference–and they might look better on paper, too.

That Spark of Life

How many times have you sat down to work when suffering from writer’s block and berated yourself by saying, “Why should I bother? I have nothing new to say. And there are already a million other books/blogs/short stories/etc. on the same subject.” Well, I wouldn’t sell yourself so short, my friend. Here’s why.

The odds of anyone coming up with the exact same words in the exact same order as you are a bajillion to one. Although experts say 87% of statistics are made up on the spot–and mine are no exception! All joking aside, unless you are parroting something you heard before (as I just did with that ancient statistics joke,) the way you choose to express yourself is uniquely your own. That has value. I never grew up in the Ozarks. I never went fishing with my cousin Sam. But the things I DID are the things that no one else did in the exact same way, and never will again. No one else will be living in the time I’m living in, doing the things I’m doing, and writing about them the way I am writing about them. So it is with you, and everyone.

I’ve read (anonymous) comments on blogs that say things like, “Women have no unique perspective. Old people have no unique perspective. Eskimos have no unique perspective.” You can reduce this very weak “argument” to: People different than me have no unique perspective. Say it aloud. Do you hear how absurd this sounds? The simple truth is, if you say what YOU have to say–and not simply copy what you have heard–you are adding your voice to the Great Conversation that humans take part in every day. This only augments our culture, not diminishes from it. Think about the talented people you love who write about the same topics. Take humor, for example–how many people write daily life humor? David Sedaris, Nora Ephron, even Jerry Seinfeld. And many more. None of those people write about their experiences the same way, even though they write about things everyone experiences–going out, talking to people, eating dinner, etc. How would you feel if your favorite humor writer quit because so many other people wrote about the same things she does?

Put your own uniqueness in your work. Trust yourself, and others will too.