Friday, June 24, 2016

7 Ways to Jumpstart your Imagination

1.     Feed it.
Food is one of the most inspirational things there is. Think about it. The smell of your favorite food can take you places you didn’t even realize were still in your memory banks. Peanut butter toast–yes, it’s a thing--always makes me think of sitting around the coffee table with my mother and two brothers with hot chocolate on a cold rainy day. Any sparks yet?

What about taste? Sometimes when I taste hazelnut I still remember, when I was about ten, eating a bunch of freshly cracked hazelnuts. They were the best. But then my face blew up like a chipmunk’s, lumps and all. That was a wild day. Sort of makes me want to write something.

2.     Exercise it.
Do little writing exercises. One of the most popular is to just start writing, about anything, and continue for some predetermined length of time. The purpose of this exercise is simply to get you writing. However, it is also a great way to jump start your imagination. Somewhere within all that stream of consciousness is the spark of an idea for something great. Give it a try.

3.     Show it.
One of the ways I used to get inspiration for poetry and short stories was to look at paintings. I would wonder what was happening to that person at that moment, or just before, or just about to happen. Or, especially with still life, I would make up a whole world around the image. It’s a great trick. Just be sure that if you mention the art in your art, that you give credit to the artist for your inspiration.

4.     Test it.
Once upon a time, I ran a poetry challenge group. It lasted about two years. And all I did was choose one word for the participants to write a poem about or inspired by. The poems were fantastic. I even took the challenge myself every week. One word. There are a number of random word generators on the internet that you can use to get the same challenge. Whether you want to write poetry, or a story, you can find your spark in a single word.

5.     Hear it.
Many people find inspiration in music. Let me suggest to you that instrumentals may lead you to where you wish to go more quickly that listening to someone else’s lyrics. I wrote one of my most beautiful love poems listening to light classical music (designed to inspire by the way). But it doesn’t have to be classical. It can be jazz, Spanish guitar, you name it. It’s all about what you hear in the music that sets off your imagination and inspires you to write your own words.

6.     Touch it.
Close your eyes and run your fingers over objects in your immediate environment. What do they make you think of? My headphones make me think of the boys on the corner scratching their records. What is their story? Where do they hope to go? The cane in the corner has a snake’s head and a serpent’s body wrapped around it. It makes me think of a villain. And perhaps the cane is more than it appears to be. The robe in my closet brings to mind a woman in a red silk dress running down a dark street with no purse or phone--and on and on. Get the picture?

7.     Read it.

Read the local news and local magazines – like the free ones. There are always good human interest stories or oddities that could give you the jumping off point that you need to write an original work. For instance, an add about spiritual healing could inspire you to write a story/novel about an unorthodox doctor.

So, no more excuses, get out there and start writing.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Imagination Under a Magnifying Glass

I actually did a podcast for you this week, but due to technical difficulties, you will not be hearing the sound of my voice.

The thing I really wanted you to take away from that podcast began with my noticing my magnifying glass on the desk. Don't ask me how it got there. Must be gremlins. Anyway, the idea is this, if you are having difficulty with a certain scene in your story, or book, or play, and you just can't make it work - take it out of your piece and look at it under your own magnifying glass. Don't just see the words, see the rhythm, see the people speaking the words. Would they speak this way outside of that scene? Is there something specific about that scene to make them speak that way? Does the scene itself speak, cry, laugh - emote? Even if you are talking about ten or fifteen words, even less, getting them absolutely right can be the key to all of the scenes leading up to and following it.

I bring this up because I recently had such a scene. I am struggling a bit with keeping out of the heads of my strong secondary characters. One of those strong characters was facing down the main character over who knew what, and the secondary character was shown up. I got stuck on ONE word --shamefacedly. Yes, it's really a word. That was my dialogue tag for the poor man and it did nothing to capture what was happening to the secondary character upon being bested by his new rival. So, I polled a few men I knew (not being one myself) about how they would feel and what physical reactions they might have to the embarrassment. Three drafts later, it was perfect. Now, the whole scene makes more sense and the other characters can play off of those two.

That's it for now. Next week - podcast? Who knows?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Three Easy Ways to Inspire Your Imagination

Imagination is like a coffee cup. One minute it’s empty-the next, it’s brimming with hot, steaming, fluid characters that fill your senses with pleasure. True, you may have stared into the bottom of that cup until the tears burned tracks in your face before the first delicious aroma of an idea floated up.

Okay, enough metaphors and similes. How do you fill your cup with imagination when all you see is the bottom?

1.      My room is filled with fantasy and unusual artwork. Sometimes, when I get stuck, I will just look around, contemplating each piece. What is going through that nymph’s mind right now as she faces the river god? Where will the fairy find herself at the end of the dark river? Eventually, my imagination will take me away and I’ll be writing. I’ve even been inspired by my own mirror.

2.      Take a walk. Pay close attention to everything and everyone you see. The man mowing his yard may just have murdered his wife. The boys playing together could have supernatural powers. Let your imagination run wild. Carry a small notebook if you need to for your ideas, because they will come. Inspiration can flow from the most unlikely of sources.

3.      Join a writing group, live or online, that gives prompts. Some of my best stories were written from prompts. In fact, Writer’s Digest provides writing prompts every week. Another unusual source is an “idea generator.” Use one that just generates one or two words. You don’t even have to use them, just let them inspire you. Let your imagination take over. For instance, the word may simply be “blue.” You immediately think of the shining feathers of a hawk. And you’re off!

These are just three ways you can inspire your imagination. Now go out and fill your cups. The world is waiting.