Ugh! Here in the States it’s that time of year that is both wonderful and stressful.
So many neighbors have their holiday lights up, walking the dog at night I feel like I’m surrounded by a Cameron-esque bioluminescent world. I just wish the sidewalk would glow in the footprints left by me and the great beast. But there is so much more work to be done as the year comes to an end and people want their books closed. Not to mention the roads are bloated with snowbirds, tourists, shoppers…you can’t just “run into the store for a minute” as it will take you fifteen to park, twenty to pay, and thirty to rejoin the traffic artery flowing in the direction of your home.
It is nice smelling the evergreens on the way into the grocery store, though.
I have an unavoidable (and unfortunately, unpaid) twelve-day vacation from work coming up, so my hope is to write like mad for two weeks in order to make it count. But with all of the stress leading up to the break, I’m concerned the Muse will be out and I’ll be a Netflix zombie.
This leads me to the www to seek out writing inspiration. I found an article with a few quick writing exercises that I plan to try. Let’s feel them out together and see what works.
- One letter, One Minute – pick a letter of the alphabet (or have someone pick it for you) and set an egg timer for one minute. Before it buzzes, write down as many words as you can think of starting with the assigned letter. Do it a couple of times for different letters just to get the wordy and creative parts of your brain firing. If some of your favorite words pop up in the list, highlight or circle them. Think about the qualities that make them your favorite words and find other words in your list that flow nicely with them. This exercise is about the words, not necessarily putting them together with other words in a form but if you see something gel run with it.
- Describe Your Surroundings – go somewhere that you can jot down notes in peace and set a timer for fifteen minutes. Before the time is up, write down everything you sense – minute details, the big picture, smells, feels, sounds…etc. Be a sponge for the details and log them all. You can do this outside (my favorite) or in a shopping mall standing aside the press of humanity. Just remember how far you might have to hike from where your car is parked and don’t look suspicious in your note taking.
It may seem like a silly exercise at first, but as writers we can always use the details of mundane human encounters to give our readers authenticity. Even on a community space-port the elements of an Earthly mall visit can feed the description of the population’s foot traffic as they engage in commerce or just pass through on the way to their hab or ship.
- Make a Map – I love this one. Map the layout of your home, where you grew up, or your elementary school. Think about how the configuration worked or could have been improved. I enjoy making maps of the various spaceship layouts of my stories. Are they miles long and designed for colonies? Or are they meant for a small crew and tons of cargo? Consider maps for some of your favorite movie/TV show layouts. Hogwarts, Serenity, Galactica, Alexandria (TWD)…etc. Do they work? Don’t forget the staircases change and the 4th floor is strictly out of bounds.
- Senses – This is similar to number two except you are describing the details of a memory instead of something tangibly in the Now. See if you can pick up on more than a snapshot of the scene or the words someone spoke. What kind of weather is in that memory? Were you outside with wind in your hair or inside by a crackling fire that was baking one side of your face? What could you smell? Were you drinking something fragrant or so cold that your hand went numb holding the cup?
- Word Exclusion – Think of a thing or topic and write down all of the words that push to the front in order to describe it. Then try to write a poem or scene describing the same subject without using any of those most common descriptors. Think of it as that awful baby shower game where you have to participate in various baby games without saying the word baby. Write about a tree without saying tall or green or leafy…except it should be something of your choosing. This seems like an excellent exercise to me because I would like more writers (myself included) to find new ways of expressing their observations of the everyday.
Have fun with the exercise and feel free to link back or paste into the comments anything you are inspired to create.
I’d also like to challenge you guys to read the book Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey. This is book one of the series The Expanse which I intended to read before the TV show started up. I’m thoroughly enjoying the book and would love to have a discussion about the plot, character development, and how the authors describe things in original language rather than cliched metaphor. They have considered so much of the minutiea I could believe they have lived in this world and are merely recounting actual observation. I am so impressed with their writing and would love to share the experience with you.
Don’t forget you should be writing. Three hundred words or less on “You are our only hope.” And yes I did just make a Star Wars reference. Our RicoChey was catching up on the full series last weekend and kept blurbing about her thoughts on the story and characters. Hopefully you guys are having fun with it.