Saturday, September 19, 2015

Creating Inspiration

Inspiration is great and I've gotten quite used to it happening pretty much constantly. However, many people find it a rare occurrence. Creative people like writers depend on it, becoming frustrated and stressed out when it doesn't show up on schedule, for whatever project they happen to be working on.
This is often compounded by reality. All those nagging things around the house or office that constantly need attention. Kids, cleaning, fixing, paying bills, etc, etc. The next thing you know, you're staring at a blank page and thinking about shoving a pencil through the side of your head in a vain effort to get something to come out.
Get Out
This is why I have always done most of my creative work sitting in a diner. Yes! My first rule for generating ideas has always been "get the hell out of the house." This is a habit I started in summer school, 50 odd years ago. But that's another story.

At your local diner, you get, for a nominal fee, a clean work area uncluttered by all the junk covering your desk at home or work. You have no obligations staring you in the face, and you have a cheery server who brings food and keeps your coffee cup filled. I met my first live in girlfriend this way.
College Towns
When possible, I like diners in or near college towns, where you get the added bonus of being surrounded by an energetic and creative atmosphere. Interacting with other people, chatting and exchanging ideas can also help get the inspiration flowing for a project. Ever notice how many coffee shops are around business centers? It's good for your ego too, as people walk by, looking and commenting on your work.

If this doesn't get things going, maybe the pencil in the side of the head is the way to go. But before you pull out the pencil sharpener, I have another plan.

As the title says, I call it Creative Inspiration, and I use this technique daily, not only to crank out new ideas, but to keep other projects moving along.
The first thing you'll need is an easy place to jot down and store ideas. I've always used cheap, six by nine, spiral-bound notebooks. A warning though. Do not use any notebook with perforated pages. It might sound handy, but over time, the pages will start tearing out and you will regret the convenience.
After 50+ years of scribbling, I've filled well over 100 of these cheap notebooks with enough project ideas to last several lifetimes. Contact me if you're really stuck for an idea, I've got lots.

For you folks more comfortable with typing, it's no problem nowadays to carry a thin tablet around, and many places now have a spot to plug-in while you sip coffee and create.
Blank Pages
My next rule for generating creative ideas, whether at home or away, is never and I mean never, start with a blank page. Never!
If you don't already have something lighting up inside your head, staring at a blank page is not going to flip the switch.

Have you ever drawn a blank trying to think of someone's name? Nothing happens until you come up with a trigger, a description of the person, a place, or even just one letter in their name. Then suddenly you explode with all kinds of names, descriptions, etc. Light bulbs going off all over the place. That's why I start with a page that already has something on it. It's a trigger. Even if it's just a doodle.
A Trigger
Always have a notebook, computer, or tablet with lots of stuff you've already got going. That is what you will be working with. That is your trigger.

Begin your day sitting down and rereading several things you already have, even things you thought were finished. As you flip through these, it will trigger your imagination. You'll visualize what's been written and once that happens, you'll see new images and soon you'll be adding to that story you thought was finished. You may not even get to your new project that day, you might spend the whole time finishing up or rewriting something you've already started.

In the background though, your brain is still working on that new project, the one that has nothing but blank pages, and at some point, light bulbs will start coming on. Maybe dim at first, but soon your creative engine will be cranked up to full speed, and you'll suddenly reach for a blank page with so much pouring out of your head, you'll barely be able to keep up.

Start every morning like this, and like me, you will have to self publish to keep up with the output.


Monday, September 14, 2015

Writers Block


Writer's Block?
I've never had it myself, but I can speculate on its cause and cure.
First off, it should more accurately be called brain block, as it happens to anyone trying to think of something.
It's nothing more than what I call pencil point mental focus. In other words, you have forced your brain to focus so sharply on one point, that it only sees what you already have in front of you, usually a blank page. Like staring so closely at a target you only see the red dot in the middle, while the surrounding red rings becoming invisible.
You are telling your brain that it must do something with whatever it is in front of you: blank canvas, paper, or stone. Yet you won't let it look away, to find materials to use.
You're practicing what I call negative meditation. You are consciously emptying your mind, but unlike normal meditation, you're locking it down, instead of freeing it up.
This is why the common advice for brain block has always been to walk away. Put the pen, brush or chisel down and relax. Do something unrelated to your problem. Let your mind wander around, relax!

Let's take a look at writer's block, since that is what most folks like to talk about.
First, you have two forms of it. The first form is the standard blank page where you are attempting to come up with a new story, novel, idea etc.
This is the easy one because you can do anything.
Simply start by looking around, slowly. As you move your eyes away from the paper, start to describe what you are seeing: paper, pen, table, floor, wall, window, etc.
Now follow the same route, but start walking and shrinking, and take a stroll across the page, then step over the pen lying in front of you. No, wait, you're still shrinking, it's the size of a fallen tree now and you have to roll over it like when you were a kid.
"That was fun." you think, running to look over the edge of the table and sliding to a stop.
"That's a long way down, wish I could fly" you say, just as your foot slips and you go over the side. Looking up, the table rapidly drifts into the distance, although you seem to be falling slowly. Suddenly you bump into something soft, a dust bunny, floating in the morning air. For a moment you watch as they drift all around you. Then you grab a big one as it comes close, then another and another. Soon you're dozing off on a mattress made of dust, drifting upward in the morning sun streaming through a window.
Now, I'll take a look at the hard one.
You've got a story or article in the works, but you are drawing a blank.
Tough luck, you're on your own on this one.
Just joking, lighten up! Relax!

Let's just take another stroll, this time through what you've already written.
Same as a blank page, look around, take a walk. Turn left instead of right, look up instead of down.
Ask a question.
What? Where? When? How?

Or start with an answer and follow it backward.
A body is in the woods.
How did he get there?
Was it someone who was out walking and just died? Did they kill themselves, did someone else, are they just sleeping? Is it a manikin left by kids pulling a prank?

Simply put, you toss all the rules out the window, and play with whatever pops into your head. In the process, your unconscious mind will work on the problem, looking at all this nonsense you are jotting down, and in no time you notice your thoughts drifting into the story you drew a blank on, just moments ago.

Instead of banging on a locked door, you simply walk around and climb in through the open window.  And suddenly you see something in that blank page, canvas, stone or lump of clay.


Place Mark Books
Krashs Place