Thursday, July 9, 2009

Re-Sparkling The Inner Writer Spirit

Photo: write by the trialI admit, I've been in a very bad rut as a writer lately. After writing a lot when I was working, I almost totally stopped writing after I quit. Then life got in the way like trainings for solar panels, travels, moving to a new city, not having time for/by myself, trying to fix Internet and electricity problems, battling Twitter withdrawal... you get the picture. You sink into that dark hole of uninspired procrastination that some writers call 'the block'. I can write a dozen excuses but that'll make me just more depressed. It's true, I get depressed when I'm not being creative. There are a couple of things to make me inspired again, maybe you can use some so here are my techniques:

1.Writing needs inspiration: take a walk outside and observe.
I live in a great place where I can see wild peacocks, woodpeckers, other birds Southeast Asian birds I can't name, cute squirrels, plus the occasional street dogs and cats. I usually walk the dog in the morning after everyone leaves. Go over to the park across the street and look at every little detail of grass, creatures, and plants all around. The bird songs and squirrel squeaks for cautioning their scurry are really amazing. When Grace and I walk into the park all the creatures go on high alert. They're not used to seeing a Greyhound and a short Asian woman roaming around. Being two feet away from a pair of woodpeckers hunting for insects makes me really happy, makes Grace (the dog) happy too because she gets to sniff the grass and roll around. When we have our fill, we head back home to write and Grace to move pillows around and become the queen of the bed. Sometimes being out and about, meeting new people and experiencing new things will inspire you to write.

2.Get in the writing mood: listen to music.
I got this tip when I was working with Trayce Gardner, the founder of Brooklyn Young Filmmakers Center. She works on her script or editing her students scripts with the perfect sound track in the back ground. It really worked for me later when I came to India and had to work in a very chatty office environment. We were elbow to elbow on our workstations (it's normal here) and the only thing that kept me sane and focused was my music. You can have playlists set up for different occasions and different moods you're setting up in your scenes, articles etc. Punk always wakes me up in the morning and techno/trip hop keep that energy level up. I transition into a more mellow Norah Jones, Ani Difranco type in the evenings and even venture into classical at night. Find the music that inspires you, put you “in the mood”.

3.Focus (which I don't do enough of) on the matter at hand.
I have too many ideas when I sit down and start writing. I always need an outline, formula or plan. I also tend to get back to the top and edit and re-edit. Half the time, writing is about sitting down and following a habit, practice or a discipline. Folks don't always see this boring side of writing. While editing is a good habit, you need to let go and have the writer in you do his or her own thing first before you start moving things around. (Yes, I'm writing this to remind myself.)

I think Syd Field wrote the best technique on how to deal with the problem of too many ideas. In his book, Screenplay, he wrote that a screenwriter will have another plot or film in mind when he or she starts writing. He said that you should take time and write out those ideas elsewhere then come back to your original story. Focus and do one thing at a time. Don't just write, write with a purpose and a plan. Don't get up until it's done, or until you're ready to look at something else, do something else and come back for editing. Once you're done with that go back to the other thing you had in mind and finish that off.

4.Find the right writing tools for you.
The fact that I've spent most of my adult life in trendy social media sites doesn't stop me from being an old fashioned writer. Plus I'm a huge pen snob. I have a particular brand of note pads, note books, and particular pens I write with. In India I found Nightingale and Matrix brand stationery to be the best to write long stuff in and small, blank paper note pads for taking notes and brainstorming. I carry that everywhere. You need to look for the tools that inspire you. Is it a slinky? Is it a Staedtler pen, or a Sharpie? A fountain pen, a ball point pen, mechanical pencil? Is it candy? Do you write best straight on the computer or are pens and papers better for you? You need to explore your options and pick the best tools for your own tool box.

5. Ask yourself hard questions about your writing.
What makes you stop? What makes you lose focus? Is it the way you fuss around with words? Retweeting or replying on Twitter all the time? Too many tabs open on your browser or too little? You're not getting enough time? Not the right environment? If you want to be a writer and stay focus, you need to ask these questions and make the environment right for you.

6.Tackle your weakest links.
Once you've asked the questions and experimented around with answers, you'll be able to re-spark that kick ass writer in you. But being a writer doesn't end there. Keep exploring, keep reading about writers and what they do to keep going. Read Screenplay by Syd Field -- even if you're not a screenwriter. Download and read How to Motivate Creative People (Including Yourself) by Mark McGuinness follow Copyblogger's blog. Follow fellow writers on Twitter. Who's your favorite writer? What does he or she do to get the ball rolling?

I know first hand that being a writer is a lonely job but there's nothing like feeling accomplished and satisfied at the end of the day. Are you a writer? How do you keep yourself motivated and inspired?

Photo by: the trial