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!

Essential Writing Tool: DBNF

Here’s another writing tool I use all the time.  I borrowed this idea from my days as a time management consultant when I used the DBNF file for prospects who weren’t quite ready to buy.

The DBNF file is the perfect solution for those times when you need to kill your lil darlings (you know… those wonderful passages of prose that just don’t quite fit into the current piece of writing).

You know this is good material but it just doesn’t quite fit here.  Yet, you hate to throw out what it took you at least an hour to create.

Solution: create a DBNF file on your computer.

DBNF Stands for Dead But Not Forgotten.

DBNF is your good writing to use elsewhere.  Another time, another day, another blog post, in another story or vignette.

Cut and paste the ‘not working’ content from the current document.  Create a new Word (or text) document.  Save it with an appropriate file name.  Store all your DBNFs in a DBNF folder.  On the computer, or printed out in a manila folder.


BONUS TIP:

Stuck for something to write?  Revisit your DBNF for a story starter or inspiration for a new piece of writing.


Writers: Have The Guts To Cut

The best advice you’ll ever get comes from Kurt Vonnegut:  “Have the guts to cut.”

Don’t be afraid to kill your lil darlings.  I know it took you a long time to write that passage of prose.  I know you think what you wrote belongs.  And maybe it does.  But maybe somewhere else.

A good writer writes clean and spare.  Every word must do new work.  There should be no clutter in your sentences, no extraneous details, nothing that is not essential to the topic at hand.

Clean, spare writing does not mean you avoid description.  But it does mean cutting:

  • repetition
  • extra adverbs when one strong verb will do
  • adjectives when a precise noun will “show” better

To keep your reader’s attention, avoid wordiness.  Strip your sentences to their cleanest form.

Learn to write tight to write right!

Essential Writing Tool: TK

I love discovering tools that make my life as a writer easier.  I tend to write on the fly and  have way more ideas than I can possibly capture on the page.

I’m not sure where I heard this one, but it’s a writing tool I use every day.

USE TK – Think of It As “To Come”

When you have a section you can’t write now, type TK into your draft. Later, use the Find command in your word processor program to search for TK.

Why TK?

TK is a letter combination not found often ( if ever?) in the English language.  So essentially, you’ve created a parking place for what’s “to come.”  (Okay, I admit, it’s fuzzy logic, but think TK phonetically = to come.)

This tool comes in very handy for those times when you don’t have the data you need.  Or you need to look up a quote to insert.  Or when the timing or inspiration is just not right to fill in the details.

Of course, before posting or submitting your prose to its final destination for publication, be sure to go through your entire document using the Find command to delete all the TKs.

3 Levels of Drafting A New Piece of Writing

j0439466Several years ago I attended a weekend spiritual retreat organized by the Omega Institute in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  Some of the notable headliners included Wayne Dyer, Joan Borysenko, James Van Praagh, Loretta Laroche, and  Dr. Brian Weiss.  I enjoyed the presentations by these wonderful teachers, but I’d come for one thing:  to sit at the feet of author Anne Lamott and lap up everything she had to say.

Anyone who has read her bestselling writing how-to book  Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life knows she has a wonderful way with metaphor, and a grand sense of humor.

She tickled her audience that day with her wry wit while teaching us about her recommended 3 stages for writing drafts:

1.  Start with a “down draft.”  Just get it all down.  Write, write, write.  Don’t worry where things might fit in.  Just get it all down before the muse runs away.  Think of the “down draft” as your parking place for ideas, experiences, and memories.

2.  Next, continue with “up drafts.”  Raise your  “down draft” from bare essentials to workable material.  That might mean adding new material, taking things out, moving elements around, shaping the piece of writing toward its publishable form.  Think of the “up drafts” as prettying things up.  This stage of drafting is truly where “writing” takes place and will mean you spend the bulk of your writing time at this stage.  Be okay with “up drafting” 5, 10, 20, even 40 times until you’ve refined your prose.

3.  Finally, attack your prose for the “dental draft”  as you polish and final hone.  During this stage, go deep inside your draft, review every word, every sentence, every paragraph for polishing.

If you’re not 100% certain of your doctoring (or dental) skills, now might be the time to have an experienced editor take a final look.  You’ll want your prose to be bright, shiny and smiling. 🙂

Personal Editing Tips from Debra Marrs

Highlighted PagesFinished with your article?  Wait!  Don’t send yet. Take a look at these tips for checking the fine print.

1.  Read your writing with fresh eyes.

  • Read your writing from a different point of view. Change seats.
  • Take your writing outside in the sun and read it there.
  • Sit in your car with your writing; read it there.
  • Take your writing to the porch or the living room couch; read it there.

2.  Read your writing aloud. Whenever you stumble, tick the words or line with a yellow highlighter.  Rework these passages when you return to your writing desk.

3.  Allow your writing to grow cold. Leave it alone.  Don’t read it for at least a week, when possible.  Then, return to it with fresh eyes and hearing.

4.  Write tight to write right. On a hard copy (printout) highlight all the “ditch words,” all the little words that lay in the ditch between the big words.  Words such as to, of, it, for, up, out, this, that, which, from, with, and, in, on, how, but, however, …  See how you might rewrite the sentences deleting 10-30% of the ditch words.  (It can be done!)

5.  Use your word processing software to insert a page break after each paragraph, giving each paragraph (or section of dialogue) its own page.  Read these smaller sections, paying attention to whether every word, every sentence adds to the whole.  Is there action or forward movement in every paragraph?  Is something happening in each section?  Cut down on long passages of expository writing when you can.

6.  Use your word processor to re-format your writing into columns to represent various publishing formats (two or three columns in normal view for magazines, two columns in landscape view for trade paperback).  Change margins to fully justified.  Notice the balance between white space and long sections of text.  Edit to allow for consistent paragraph length.

7.  Read your manuscript backwards, looking at each word individually for possible errors in usage and spelling.

8.  Create a “window marker” by cutting a hole in a plain piece of paper the width of two lines of text.  Use it as a pull-down marker to review your text two lines at a time.

9.  Ask an expert when in doubt. Don’t mar your reputation in your specialized field by minor mistakes in grammar, usage, punctuation, and syntax.  Your article, newsletter, or ebook represents YOUImpress them with your tips; wow them with your prose.

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.