I’m so happy to share with you today a guest post by Judy Clement Wall. We published her article, Seven Unusual Tips to Stir Your Creative Juices, on FFDO when the #fridayflash community website was still up and running, but since it closed last year, I really wanted to share this article again, with as many people as possible.
Hope you enjoy these tips as much as I have!
Seven Unusual Tips to Stir Your Creative Juices
Feeling stuck? Try these tips for moving past the occasional (inevitable) bout of writers
1. Go on an adventure (and take notes).
Last month, I went on a 4-day road trip – 1265 miles to drop my son off at college. I was an emotional wreck, as moms saying goodbye to their children often are, but I knew the trip would provide a lot of writing material, so every night, before I went to bed, I made a list of all the interesting things I could remember from the day. When I got home, I had four pages of notes, a lot of them things I wouldn’t have remembered if I’d waited until I got home to start writing. So far, from those notes, I’ve written a piece for Huffington Post, an essay for a literary collection, and a blog
Even if you can’t afford to take four days off and drive, take a Saturday morning or a Sunday afternoon and go somewhere you’ve never been before. Be observant. Talk to strangers. Watch scenes unfold and then imagine them differently.
2. Shamelessly eavesdrop.
I’ve taken to eavesdropping in coffee shops. It amazes me the stories I can invent over the span of an unsuspecting victim’s cup of coffee. And really, sometimes you don’t even have to work that hard. Once I listened to the first date of a couple who’d met on Match.com. When I got up to leave, he was telling her about his ex-wife’s cat’s urinary tract infection. I wanted to rescue her, grab her hand on my way out and make a break for it. In the story version of that date, I’d have done it.
3. Close your laptop (or whatever you write in).
Most of the time, it’s best to keep your butt in the chair and hammer something out, even if it’s ugly. You can make it pretty later, and it’s better to get something (anything!) down, than give up. That’s how the hard work gets done.
But there are times when sheer, dogged determination isn’t enough to break through the block, and trying to pound through it only leaves you feeling defeated. At those times, go live your life. Plant something, take a friend to lunch, wrestle with your dog. Sometimes when you’re truly empty, there’s nothing to do but go out and fill the well.
4. Wonder about weird stuff.
Recently I was on a hike with a friend, and we were talking about a news story he’d read a few years ago. The story was about a plane crash that killed many people. My friend said that when they listened to the cockpit recording later, it was clear that the pilot and copilot had been fighting over a flight attendant they were both involved
I asked my friend if both men were single, and he said he didn’t know. I said, “Imagine if one of them wasn’t, and his widow hears after his death that not only was he having an affair, he killed a lot of people while fighting over his mistress.”
My friend said, “no one but you would ever wonder about that,” but writers wonder about weird things.
5. Read outside your genre.
I only recently started doing this. I read and write literary fiction and nonfiction, but in 2012 I decided to read at least one book (or manuscript) each year that I wouldn’t normally choose. Reading outside my comfort zone puts me in a less analytical, more easily surprised frame of mind, which is right where I want to be when I sit down to do my own work.
The definition of “doodle” is “scribble aimlessly.” How great is that? When you’re stuck, do a little aimless scribbling. Let your mind go. Think of it as recess, then come back to your work-in-progress when you feel refreshed.
7. Use social media as a muse.
Social media is not just for platform building. There are some smart fascinating, funny, talented people on the internet. Follow them. Not the ones who talk only about their impressive word counts or latest book signing, but the ones who make you laugh aloud (or gasp, or blush) with their irreverent updates and observations.
I even have a special suggestion for flash fiction writers. Meg Pokrass writes and teaches flash fiction. Her work has been published all over the place and has been nominated many times for the Pushcart Prize anthology. I follow her on Facebook because her updates are wild, funny, piercing works of flash fiction in themselves, and she often posts several in a day. Inspiration at your Facebook-y fingertips.
More about the author:
Judy Clement Wall’s short stories, essays, reviews and interviews have been published in numerous literary print journals and websites, including Huffington Post, The Rumpus, Used Furniture Review, Kind Over Matter, and Smith Magazine. You can read more of her work at JudyClementWall.com