The Well of Creativity

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I believe the well of creativity is always full — there for your taking, waiting patiently for you to dip in.  Using writing prompts as mini-assignments gives you the dipper to draw your personal connections from the deep recesses of the well.  If you’re looking for writing inspiration, trust the prompts to trigger fresh possibilities.

Suggested Steps

1.  Read the writing prompts.

2.  Quickly, write down anything that comes to mind for each.  First thoughts… uncensored.  (My recommendation:  a writer’s notebook or journal as a tool you use consistently for recording these first thoughts.  The writer’s journal becomes your personal written archive for more material and personalized writing prompts.)

3.  If one of the prompts spurs you to write more, go for it!  Don’t stall.  The Muse is speaking now!  Don’t let her get away.

4.  Over the next few hours or days, allow the prompts to germinate.  Revisit them daily.  New thoughts may come.  Through your reticular activating system (RAS) the prompts will attract new material for you.  Allow the prompts to inspire your daily writing practice in unforeseen ways.

5.  Find a quiet place (or if you prefer raucous, then turn on the stereo, way up loud).  Practice a combination of:  Breathing – Stillness – Listening.

6.  Move.  Go for a walk.  Practice yoga.  Leave your desk.  Sit in a comfy chair.  Go out on the porch.  Take a drive.  It’s often here where you’ll “hear” fresh ideas too.

7.  Write.  Write.  Write.  Return to the prompts and to your initial thoughts.  Set a mini-goal to write 500 words on a selected prompt.  Then another…  Keep writing as long as you are inspired.

8.  Add to, refine and polish those that seem to have promise for “product pieces.”

9.  Trust the process.

10.  Make writing for practice, for process, or for product a priority for every day.

11.  Enjoy the journey!

Freewriting – Process vs. Product

 

CoffeePaperPenThe concept of freewriting is to allow your words to flow onto the page, uncensored.  Read a prompt, put pen to page, and write.  Don’t stop to think… just write what comes to mind based on the prompt.  Allow whomever you draw your creativity from (the Universe, your Muse, God) to speak to you.  Use the prompt to conjure up sensory details from all 6 senses (see, smell, touch, hear, taste and “feel” emotional connections). Be spontaneous, expansive, and fluid.  Write first thoughts.  Freudian slips are okay, even welcomed, as they often take us where we really need to go.

Writing Prompts (or Assignments)

Writing prompts are intended to trigger your mental archive.  Use them as a springboard from your personal experience into writing.  All of us carry around images, emotions, and feelings that connect to past experiences, current situations, and future dreams.  Allow the prompt to “inform” your writing, but not “define” it.  The prompt may tell you to write something a certain way, but what comes to mind for you is something different.  Great!  Fine!  Write what your creative spirit tells you to write.  Anything you write is wonderful-neither good nor bad, it just is.

Allow yourself to be surprised.  Use the prompt to draw out your creative spirit and allow her writing to show up on the page in whatever form you choose.  Welcome short bursts-small pieces of 100 words, for example, can always grow into big pieces too.  Just get something, anything, written down.

Prompts as Writing Practice

I believe there are two kinds of writing:  writing for process and writing for product.  While the two go hand in hand, I believe what comes first is writing for process.

Consider:  where do you get the seeds for a new piece of writing?  how do you get from a series of thoughts to a fully polished piece that’s ready to send to a publisher?

In my experience, working with prompts and writing practice is a natural stepping stone on the path to publishable material.  Our first step is to write based on inspiration triggered by a prompt, allowing our writing to flow with personalized intention.

I call this “writing for process.”  You may not be able to see where this piece of writing is going, but what you’re doing is tapping into your mental and experiential archive.  You’re getting thoughts and ideas down on paper.  You’re strengthening your writing muscle.  You’re acknowledging your writing voice and personal style.

I believe as writers we need to collect a good sampling of these “writing for process” pieces.  They are the springboards for larger projects and help point us in directions we may not have seen or acknowledged before.

Once you have a collection of “process pieces” you can then begin to shape for publication the ones that interest you.  Here’s where your “process pieces” turn into “product pieces.”  These “product pieces” become the writings that you actively “work on” and polish.  With the “product pieces,” you begin to look for suitable markets, honing and refining to publisher guidelines.

In order to get your writing practice started, or to stimulate your creativity further, I invite you to get a free copy of my ebook “99 Ways to Jumpstart Your Creative Writing.”

Working Table of Contents – A Way to Organize Your Writing

Create a working table of contents (WTOC) for all your writings.  Think of the WTOC as an idea list.  The working table of contents lists not only the vignettes or articles you’ve written, but also the vignettes or articles you plan to write.  Use actual or working titles for each vignette, chapter, blog post idea or article.

HOT TIP – Create a Working Table of Contents document in a table in your word processing software or use spreadsheet software, such as Excel.

In your WTOC, next to the titles you’ve written, record the current word count.  Also, create a column to notate the phase the writing is in (i.e.  prewritten, 1st draft, middle drafts, close to final, needs proofing, ready to publish, etc.).

Keep ALL your writing in one place on your computer.  Start with a folder titled “MY WRITINGS” or “MY BLOG POSTS” (or title of your collection), for instance.  Within that folder, create a new folder for each vignette OR working title.  Within each folder, save your drafts and revisions along with other supporting documentation, and research for that vignette, chapter, blog post idea or article.

Keep ALL your copies and edits of your writing together too.  Mirror your computer folders by creating manila folders for each of your articles, vignettes, or chapters.  Print the latest drafts and revisions and place them in their respective folders.  Also, collect supporting documents in the folder to create a compost of ideas and springboard material.  For instance, photos, articles about your topic, research notes, letters, interviews with characters who appear in the story, etc.

Store all your writings in one place.  If you have a filing cabinet or drawer where they can all reside together, great!  If not, consider purchasing a portable file tub with a lid.  These are especially handy when you go on vacation and want to take your writing with you.  For those who live in hurricane or flood evacuation zones, the tote tub filing system makes it easy to grab and go, never leaving behind your precious works.

Feed your creativity.  Visit museums, antique stores, and places that carry the associations of your stories.  Make dates with yourself to feed the muse.  Go for walks in the park.  Write in a journal.  Listen to music.  Fill your well with fresh ideas and new musings.  The more you feed the muse, the more often she’ll meet you on the page.

Download a free .pdf of the Working Table of Contents here.

Please leave a comment below this blog post to let  me know what you think.

Let’s get organized!

Writers: Reach Your Goals – Stop, Start, Keep Doing

Writers, are you aware of all the things that keep you from your goals?

What will you stop doing, start doing, keep doing during the next 30 days?

This is a question I ask my coaching clients at the end of every month.

If you’re not taking time periodically to evaluate how you spend your time, then you’re probably stuck on autopilot, doing the same things you did last week, last month, or even last year without thinking about them.

It’s not as simple as 1-2-3, what do you stop doing. I encourage you to go deeper than that and look at what you’re already doing really well. Often, you merely need to tweak a few things.

Month by month if you adopt this process, by this time next year you’ll be a new writer.

A simple assessment of your daily action habits includes:

  1. What are you doing that wastes your time? What action habits do you routinely break, those tiny, big or small things that leave you disappointed at the end of the day for not achieving what you set out to do? Make a list – these will be behaviors you want to STOP doing.
  2. What are the top 3 action habits you could implement this month, maybe even this week, that would help you be more productive, better trained, or more marketable? Make a list – these will be behaviors you want to START doing.
  3. What 3 action habits are you already doing that you know benefit your writing life? Make a list – these will be behaviors you want to KEEP doing. (Be sure to give yourself credit for the many things YOU ARE already doing that lead you to your daily successes and writing goals.)

Take some time to reflect on all that you need to stop doing, start doing and keep doing at the end of every month.

Then download my free STOP-START-KEEP DOING TOOL << — (click the link) and fill in the blanks. Post your STOP-START-KEEP DOING TOOL where you see it every day.

Smart writers take time to assess what’s keeping them from their goals. Post a comment to tell us what you’ll STOP-START-KEEP DOING during next month too.

Make Time To Write

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1. Set an intention to write. Make it a priority, a gift you give yourself in a container of time for each week.

2. Establish a schedule. Find the time that works best for you, a.m. or p.m. or in between. Just showing up is important. Many successful writers keep an appointment with themselves and write at the same time every day.

3. Use “scrap” time–any little scrap of time will do. Perhaps, your lunch hour, or 20 minutes right after work, an hour before going to bed, early in the morning, while waiting to pick up Suzy from dance lessons or Johnny from soccer.

4. Set a goal for a minimum amount of writing you’ll do each week (ie. # of words, # of pages, # of vignettes started).

5. Get away from distractions. Set aside a place especially for your writing.  Create a writer’s nook or space for writing. OR, go to a place that works for you: the library, Starbucks, a bookstore, perhaps a park where you feel inspired.

6. Ask for what you need from others. When you need time and space, ask for it. Set new boundaries with yourself and others to create the time and space you need.

7. Stop doing those things that don’t serve your writing: watching TV, surfing the internet, playing computer games, solitaire or poker (I know, I’m a drag!)

8. Practice. Practice. Practice. You are creating a habit. Like exercise, establish your personal routine, a routine that works for you. Find your rhythm.

9. Find a writing partner who will act as a sounding board, reader, and friend, someone who will support your writing practice.

10. Reward your successes with new writing tools: pens, notebooks, how-to books, and the like when you’ve met your weekly targets.