Writing 101: Catching Your Own Imagination

Yes, Writer Tip Wednesday is a little behind, but in my defence, I was stuck on a road to and from Manchester last night for more hours than is humane…so my blog post didn’t go up – you can blame Manchester! Hehe. Following on from my In Search of Originality post, it got me to thinking. Whether we’re creating something unseen before, or merely imitating, the birth of either comes down to one thing in the writer’s mind, no matter what experience is added: imagination.

Such a powerful word, isn’t it? In an instant, it conjures up images of writers from the past thoughtfully chewing on the end of a quill pen, sitting at a cheaply candle-lit desk in a scruffy loft. Or of a bohemian shawl-clad woman smoking copious but elegant cigarettes as she shuffles through stacks of paper to find the said pen. There’s a whole discussion on where exactly imagination comes from, and some scientists now believe the brain as a whole calls on different areas when creating – so no single ‘place’ where the muse sits. So how do we catch hold of this ghostly force floating around our minds?

I think every writer is familiar with ‘writer’s block’, that irritating period where your brain conks out, puts its feet up, and has a drink without you. “I’ll call later,” it says, before hanging up on you. And you just know it’s having fun without you. But after writing professionally for a few years now, I think writer’s block isn’t a brick wall as such, maybe just an obstacle. And with all obstacles, there’s a way around them. I’ve had a few hellish times with blocks in my writing time, and I think I’ve come up with a few (if some are a little strange!) ways of dealing with it, and finding the left turn around the obstacle to your book. So, I’m going to share them with you guys…

 

Stream Of Conscious Writing

This is good for if the story is coming through okay, but your descriptions and words just aren’t up to the task just yet. You’re going to need a pen and paper for this one, and possibly need to travel to places similar to those in your story. I’ll give an example for this one; in a recent chapter of the book I’m writing now, I need to describe a wet, autumnal day. I just couldn’t feel the scene like I wanted to, so…as it’s currently autumn here in Britain, and wet, I went outside with a pen and paper, at 11pm, and using the outside light in our yard, starting writing everything I could see, hear and feel around me, without stopping to consider what I was writing down. I wrote things like ‘Strange light of the dusk’, Sweet and musty’, and ‘frenzied buzzing of a bird’s wings’. I may not use those exact words or phrases in a book, but as I read down the sheet of paper, it brings the memory of a wet, autumnal night back to me sharply, helping me to create the scene I need. I’ve since done a few others, for a ‘cold, crisp autumn morning’, and ‘sunny afternoon in autumn’. Obviously, I’ll have to wait a while for the rest of the year until I have a whole collection, but you get the idea. So if you’re stuck on how to accurately describe a shopping centre, go and write whatever you see, hear and feel there, without stopping to think what you’re noting down. Need to know what a quiet afternoon in the countryside is like? Go visit it for a bit one afternoon, and take your pad and pen! I promise it’s surprising how well this simple exercise can help, and it’s interesting to note all the things you never notice when you’re thinking too hard about it.

Yes, you will actually type this fast. Good, huh?

Yes, you will actually type this fast. Good, huh?

 

Relax For A While!

Yeah, thought you guys might like that one, haha. But seriously, if you’re thinking too much about any one thing, you will get burn out. It’s not pretty. *shudders* But don’t relax too much, that’s the key. If you’re having trouble concentrating on your scene because nothing is coming forth, go and do something else for a while, but make sure it’s still something creative. Go bake a cake, put a shelf up, paint something – as long as you’re still engaging those practical, imaginative parts of your mind, it can be good to change what you’re doing. Continuing to do something creative (based off when I’ve done it, mind, I can’t guarantee results) that’s different seems to help your brain figure things out differently, but by still engaging the same parts of your mind, you’ll find your thoughts drifting back to your book – and nine times out of ten, you’ll also figure out the problem that had you stuck while you were writing. Try it out, and see if it works for you.

Hmm....maybe this isn't the best way to relax. Maybe.

Hmm….maybe this isn’t the best way to relax. Maybe.

 

Talk To Yourself

Okay, I know. This one does sound we’re going into crazy people territory. But show me a writer who doesn’t have a little madness in them. This method can be useful if you’re having difficulty penning out a conversation between two people, and you don’t want it to be flat or dull – you’re also going to need either a good memory for this method, or a pen, paper, and fast hand. Clear a space where you can walk about and imagine the setting for the conversation – I suggest doing this when you’re on your own, by the way. Nothing more embarrassing than being walked in on when chatting with yourself. 😉 Pretend to be the character who initiates the conversation, really get into their mindset. Walk as they would walk, think how they would think, even do a ‘voice’ for them, if you like. Say the first line they would say, then get into the mindset of the other character (or characters) and think of how they would reply. It help to imagine what your response might be to what was said. (What would you say to “I am your lost-lost brother,” for example? Or, “I killed them,”?) Play out the conversation between the characters, and don’t forget to imagine what arm movements they would use, whether they would sit or stand, and where. What expressions would they have while speaking? It might sound mad, but I promise, do this and memorise it, then write it down; or write down notes and write it down, and it will be one of the best conversations your characters have ever had.

Turns out, he was just writing a book. Who would have guessed?

Turns out, he was just writing a book. Who would have guessed?

 

Listen To Music

It’s on my list, but I think this is one method (from all the writers I know) that already gets used a lot – because it’s so good! But, I think you get the best results when you choose music for a playlist with no words at all – so that basically means no setting up all your favourite popular songs. The reason for this is that sometimes hearing other words spoken can be distracting, and you’ll find yourself spending more time singing along than writing, haha. Is your book set in Ireland or Scotland? Find some powerful Celtic music to set the mood. Maybe you’re writing a novel set in the Roaring Twenties? Search for some sultry jazz music. Keep softer, gentler music for emotional scenes, and fiery, powerful music for battle scenes or arguments. Choose music that will fit the ‘vibe’ of your book, and make a playlist that lasts twice as long as the time you set aside for writing each day. (So if you write for two hours a day, make the playlist four hours). This means you won’t be listening to the same piece over and over, unless you want to, of course! Set the playlist to ‘shuffle’, plug in your headphones, and let the writing begin. It’s incredible what emotions and thoughts can be stirred by listening to an appropriate piece of music, and I’ve found ideas usually flow endlessly after you hit the right track.

You know it's good when your cat nods along.

You know it’s good when your cat nods along.

 

So these are some of my favourite methods for cracking down on that irritating writer’s block. Try them out, and let me know if any of them work for you! What about you guys, do you have any other methods you like to use? Share them in the comments below, I’d love to know a few more! 🙂

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