Sometimes there just aren’t words to properly share your thoughts or feelings about various things. Many of you might not understand “the sound of wetness” or the notion that food can taste like a smell or a place… or as I’ve tried to explain at work: that an umeboshi candy tastes like Christmas.
In order to be prepared to take on a new writing project, my mind slips into what I’m going to call my “writer world.” In my writer world, everything is slightly more vivid or fantastical – men aren’t just tall, they tower over the helpless like giants casting shadows of despair on those below. Granted, that’s giving you a bit of an exaggeration just as an example.
More often it’s simple snippets of ways to do something… Wow, so this is harder to explain than I thought. And somehow it’s already rambled into its fourth paragraph. Why do I feel the need to ramble about this? Because this is how I write – and if you’re a writer reading this, you may also understand. In my case, I write even when I’m not writing. It’s almost unconscious in some cases.
And when this happens, you can sometimes find little golden nuggets of….. of what? Resource? One small combination of words that might be beautiful or shockingly simple with an unbelievable depth to it. Of course, you almost always lose it. You don’t find these little nuggets when you’re searching for them.
I’ve always been told I should carry a small notebook around for just such occasions, and maybe you should. For me, it simply doesn’t work. I can scribble something down then and there that I think represents what I want to remember, but later I see it resembles nothing of how I felt or it seems like a horrible scramble of the words that had been floating so perfectly aligned in my head. I end up with notes that I can barely understand or barely even read. It’s a lot like the man up top with all the sticky notes on his head. I end up with dozens of scribbles that might as well be blank stickies all over my face for all the good they do me.
So while a small notebook may become one of your greatest tools, it is one of my greatest frustrations. I don’t capture what I wanted, I’m only faced with a reminder of what I lost. Someday this may change, and I may discover a trick to capturing not only a pile of random words but also the emotions and images that were linked to those words. When that day happens, I’ll carry the notebook.
I write a lot about not searching for help outside of yourself. This may seem very egotistical to some, as if I’m saying I have never needed help nor will I ever. I’d like to clarify this some. When I say you shouldn’t search the internet for suggestions or help or tips, this is related to inspirational and creative endeavors. Meaning: you will not find the perfect idea or the perfect string of words or the perfect plot twist by searching online.
You WILL find very useful information about how to structure the ideas you have already come up with. You WILL find very useful information about how to present this information to publishers and agents.
But if you need help with the idea, no amount of outside aid can help you. Your friends, your favorite blogs, your uncle Bob – none of them can help you form the idea. That’s not to say they can’t hold your hand a little and lead you to it. It simply means that while they’re shooting all these wonderful suggestions out at you, you’ll only latch onto the ones that serve your own ideas. It may even seem like these sources hand-fed you the idea you needed, but really, they only inspired you – they provided you a foundation on which to build, a place from which to develop a full-blown, entirely operational novel.
So even as I urge you to go seclude yourself away from the rest of society and really delve into your fictional world and maybe slap a character or two around, I’m also going to remind you to keep an open-mind. There is always more to learn. You may be a writer but you will never be an expert. Your craft will grow beyond you, just as parents watch their children grow and leave them. Just when you think you’ve mastered something about your craft, you turn around and realize that doesn’t always work, or this works even better, or I never even thought of that! Your craft will grow until you let it die and toss it aside.
I am against searching for help and hints to what you should write. If you’re a writer, you know what you should write. It’s in you. You just don’t know how to get it out. So stop searching for what’s in there and start searching instead for methods to drawing it out of you. You can’t trade for ideas, you can’t buy inspiration, but you can definitely receive help in cultivating those ideas you already have and you can be trained to see and recognize the inspiration that you didn’t know was following you around all this time.
Before closing, I’m going to share two of the most useful sites I’ve ever stumbled upon:
HollyLisle.Com : Great articles for an aspiring writer. This woman is a resource all by herself. She has put so much of her time and energy into creating materials that will help wannabe writers develop their craft and really learn something useful.
Miss Snark : This site has been dead and inactive for a couple years now. It is still valuable – there are archives, people. Peruse these archives often. Study them intently. Learn much about bad writing and how not to do it. And enjoy this anonymous agent’s wit and humor in the process. Highly amusing.
If you need help with your writing or you feel you’ve lost your motivation or inspiration – try these sites first. If they don’t help, talk to a friend, just remember that you’re writing even while you’re talking. Your friends aren’t solving all your problems for you, they’re simply helping you turn the rusty cogs in your head. They get the ball rolling and you snatch it up for a slam dunk.