Monday, October 25, 2010

Holy Fast-Flying Time!

I don't know about you, but for me October has gone by in a flurry of leaves and acorns.  Even now, as I sit with an only partially obstructed view of my calendar (the best I can hope for, I'm afraid) I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around the fact that November 1 is only one week away.

We all know what November 1 means.

In honor of the upcoming frenzy that is NaNoWriMo, I have prepared something rather special.  Remember back in July, when I went to the Highlights Foundation's writers workshop at Chautauqua?  And remember how I came back with a sack full of gold nuggets (aka, brilliant bits of wisdom from esteemed industry folk) I promised to shareWell, that time has now come.

What better time to read bits of writing wisdom than the week before NaNoWriMo?  I know I could use a few mind stretches myself.  So, this week I'm going to do something COMPLETELY ABNORMAL for me.  I'm going to post on this blog Every. Single. Day.

Yeah, I said it.

And because I said it, I'll bloody well have to do it.  So.  If you are like me, and you need a little tune-up to prepare for 50,000 words in 30 days, please come back every day this week.  I'm planning to share my 7 favorite workshops from my time at Chautauqua.

(Photo by James P. Blair

So, without further ado, here's your first gold nugget: a workshop on creativity and inspiration by author and poet Rebecca Kai Dolitch.

She began with this quote by Neil Gaiman: "Often ideas come from two things coming together that haven't come together before. ('If a person bitten by a werewolf turns into a wolf what would happen if a goldfish was bitten by a werewolf? What would happen if a chair was bitten by a werewolf?')"

Creativity, says Dolitch, is merely thinking of the possibilities. WHAT IF...?

"When you create something, it enters the world.  It has never been there before.  There is no right and wrong.  It’s yours.  It’s imagination, and there is nothing better than imagination.  And that comes from brainstorming.  Imagine the What Ifs."

"Remember when you were a child?  And you doodled, and you played, and you just did and had fun?  You didn’t know where it was going, and you didn’t care."

"Creativity is more of a lifestyle.  You have to make it a habit."

::Here are some ways to flex your creative muscles and loosen up the ideas inside your head::
- Write down new, cool words. (Free paint samples in paint stores are a great place for strange words.)
- Go on a treasure hunt for THINGS that inspire your creativity.  Keep a treasure box.  (Is that just STUFF, or is it a treasure you want to keep?)  Find things that make you think, and be creative.  Save them.
- Read nonfiction articles about inventors.  What inspired them to come up with inventions?
- ALWAYS think in metaphors.  Train yourself to constantly compare one thing to another.  Think about old letters from the ancient past.  Children think naturally in metaphors.  They also think the way Neil Gaiman does…
- Journal with words you love.  Find those words, keep those words.  Write down things that make you feel creative.  Play with words: take one and think of all the shapes of it, all the colors of it, all the ways you might combine them.
- Quotes from movies, from songs… write them down.  Write all you can, write it all down.  Every day, write in one.  Keep one with you.
- Maps can be greatly inspiring.  They can be the physical thing that gets you out of your head and wakes you up from yourself.
- Google random things and start to read, see if anything inspires you.
- Write from art.  See if something inspires you in that piece.  Take illustrations from storybooks and block out the words.  Take art.  Paintings.  Drawings.  Save the things you find.
- Take things that catch your attention and make you want to know more.  And then, investigate them.  Find out about them.  And write about them.  
- Think about if you had a magic wand and could wish for one thing.  What would it be?  A small little detail, as if you were a child.
- If you were morning, and morning could speak, what would you say?
- Think about kindergartners.  Think about what was important.
- Think of being a teenager.  Think of what was important to you.  Not the abstract things… the little things, the details.  Make lists and lists of those details.
- Make a list of favorite things, and things that make you feel creative.

For more on this subject, check out Neil Gaiman's post on ideas.  (It's wonderful.)

What about you, Dear Reader?  How do you find inspiration?  Do ideas assail you like hailstones every day of the week, or do you have to go out hunting for them with a butterfly net and a taser gun?


  1. Really great post, Hannah! Saving this one for the long writing days ahead. Especially since I have a hard time finding inspiration these days.

    The best thing for me to do, when I want to just let my thoughts run wild, is to go for a drive or run or walk. I thought up the... thing?... I'm working on now during a drive to the Catskills.

  2. Last week our girls book club at the library discussed Savvy, by Ingrid Law. I highly recommend talking to kids about creative concepts for inspiration.

    We asked each of the girls what savvy they would choose if they could. Some chose ones from the book, but others said they'd like to talk to animals, be invisible, or be able to mediate arguments between others. My choice? To be able to apparate. How much fun would that be!

  3. Great post! Being in a bit of a creative slump myself right now, these are great ideas to jump start my thought processes. Thanks!

  4. Awesome post!

    I'm definitely a what-if? writer. I come up with scenarios, then the characters, who usually take over from there. I have a lot of what-ifs? in a notebook, but some of them aren't fully fledged scenarios yet.

    I love the idea of writing from art, but it's quite a departure from the kind of writing about art I used to do. I do find so many digital photography websites where the pictures just beg for a story to be told about them.

  5. I write steampunk. Reading about 17th and 18th century scientists always gives me inspiration overload. Not just because of the work they did, but because of what fascinatingly quirky and eccentric characterss they were.

  6. I get ideas from a lot of sources, but when a really good one hits, it's like a bolt of lightnting. I know I have to write that story right then.

  7. Nicole, I'm glad you liked it. I agree with you about getting out for inspiration. Something about just moving... tends to get those creative blood vessels pumping.

    Michelle, I love conversations like that. We used to do that for role-call when I taught archery at summer camp. And I'm right there with you: apparition (spelling?) would be fabulous.

    JEM, glad you liked it. Hope they help you out!

    Tere, it seems like ideas are everywhere sometimes, doesn't it? I like your digital photography approach. A picture says a thousand words, after all...

    Lily, I'm sure that's fascinating reading. There are some seriously crazy characters in history. And probably especially in science in those eras! What a great idea.

    Melissa, I totally know what you mean. I love those bolts of lightning. :)

    Thanks for stopping by, guys. Hope to NaNo with you all!