The Care and Feeding of the Creative Process

People often have ideas for stories, begin them with relish and then slowly peter off as the weeks go by. You can’t blame anybody for losing interest in their writing idea, especially with so many things vying for your time and attention. The longer you stray from a writing project, the harder it becomes to get back into it. Let’s face it, writing takes time and perseverance. You need to start the project and keep your interest in it, and the only way to do that is to feed the creative process.

Feeding the creative process is about the things we do when we’re not actually writing, and sometimes when we are. It’s about immersing yourself in the story even when you’re away from the keyboard.  This may not make a whole lot of sense to you now, but it will. Stick with me and you may finish that epic novel you’ve been trying to write.

Give Your Story a Soundtrack

Think of your project as a movie. What type of music would be playing on the soundtrack? What’s the overall mood of your story? How would you convey that with sound? Find a song that has a similar theme to your project and listen to it. Think about the words and how they pertain to your project. If you’re working on a novel that takes place in the 1950s, you may want to immerse yourself in the music from that period. If it’s romantic, find a song that inspires romance.

Find whatever music will take you into the story and play it. Make a playlist for your story. Allow the music to bring the story into your life even when you’re not writing it. Play the soundtrack to your project when you’re getting ready to go out, cleaning the house or cooking. Allow the music to take you back to your story, perhaps to a specific portion of it that’s been giving you trouble. As long as the music isn’t distracting, play it while you’re writing.

I recently wrote a scene that had big band music in the background, specifically Moonlight Serenade, so I listened to it while writing and it helped bring me closer to the scene.

Visuals

Find pictures from where your story takes place, how your characters dress, the food they eat, etc… and put them in a notebook or a folder on your computer. Find visuals of interior settings, pets, jewelry, anything. I’ve been known to draw layouts of apartments and houses for reference. Many writers make a timeline, especially if the story if very complex and spans many years.

I once wrote a story that took place in the early ’60s and one of the character’s style was inspired by Jean-Paul Belmondo. A portion of the story also took place in Atlantic City. Here are some of the pictures I have in my notes for the story.

Whenever I was stuck or before I started writing, I often took a look at these pictures to bring me back to the visuals of the story. I’ve spoken to other authors who do the same thing. One person told me she prints the pictures out and puts them up on a board in her writing space.

I take notes using OneNote because it’s part of Microsoft Office and offers everything I need, but there are many other options for note taking. Find one that works for you and use it.

Get to Know Your Characters

If your character has a hobby or pastime that’s legal and won’t hurt you in any way, give it a try. I’m talking about hobbies like knitting, pottery, cooking, and such. I know an author who learned how to shoot a gun for this very reason. If the hobby is something you can’t afford or feel will take up too much time, check out some YouTube tutorials to get a better perspective. I recently learned how to stretch a canvas and prep it for painting via YouTube. Not only will learning your character’s hobbies benefit the creative process, it will also allow you to add more detail into the story and give it some extra realness.

If you’re able to visit the place where your story takes place, do it. Visit the actual places in our story, talk to the locals, eat the local food. Listen to the way they speak, the phrases they use. Take a look at the architecture, the street signs, plants, and colors. If you can’t visit the places in your story, do some research. Google it and be sure to look at photographs. Read up on it.

Read

Read books by authors who inspire you, make you think differently about writing, or those you simply admire. These can be books on writing, but they don’t have to be. These books may not help with your current project, but they should inspire you to look at your own work in a new light and thus become a better writer.

There are many books that made me change the way I write that aren’t about writing. A few of these are: Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood, The Grifters by Jim Thompson, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. These books made me stop and think about voice and tone. I should also include Anne Beattie, whose short stories taught me the beauty in simplicity. The poetry of Wanda Coleman and Dennis Cooper have also inspired me.

Also, everybody needs a good book on writing, of which there are many. However, the only book I feel every author must have is Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. This is the best book on self-editing I have ever read, and one I often refer to, even today. Read this book and tighten your prose, learn how to kill your darlings, and become a better writer.

Conclusion

Hopefully these tips will help you find the drive to finish any writing project you begin or are presently working on. If you’re still having a hard time or can’t seem to get yourself to write, try my post Get Yourself in the Mood…to Write.

 

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