Rejuvenating with Writing

 It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that things have been a bit rough for a lot of people recently.  We’re all grasping at straws to find some hint of what used to be normal, while trying to grow and change at the same time. On the whole, it can get a bit exhausting. Sometimes you have to take a break from the glaring reality flashing in your face. Whether it’s gardening, Zoom calling your friends, or reading a book, you need something to rejuvenate your spirit. To keep you on the path towards a brighter future.

For the longest time, the only thing that fell into this category for me was reading. Then music joined the mix, but it’s a bit difficult to quietly practice a clarinet in an apartment complex. Especially when everyone is at home to hear your cringey attempts at relearning scales. Reading has been a comfort to me, but I’ve also found that writing has joined the ranks as well. When I write, that is. Writing can ebb and flow in my life to extreme degrees. So, when it is in my grasp, I snatch it up like a child catching a lightning bug. Cupped firmly-but delicately- in two hands, to see the glow of inspiration between fingers. 

Writing this blog has been a mixed bag for me right now. Some days, I can feel the ideas for future content flowing from me. But only when I’m in a location where writing said ideas down is an impossibility. Most days it feels like a chore, but one that I enjoy doing once I’m in the middle of it. I’m sure you have something in your life like that right now. 

But the nice thing about writing right now, despite my lack of inspiration, is time. Time to focus on research rabbit holes about 1920s archaeologists, or invent an underground network of spies. If you feel stuck in the rejuvenating hobby, try a new strategy. For me, this new strategy is research or character sheets. I can pull myself into parts of writing that normally won’t cross my mind until I’m in the thick of a writing session. Researching might not add words to the page, but it can add ideas to my mind that I can pluck out later when I’m stuck. Designing a new character might put their words on the page in a new way. It’s also a great way to learn about how your characters will interact differently with each of the characters in your novel.  

If you’re like me, staring at your lack of life progress in frustration, take time to rejuvenate. If you feel stuck, try that new strategy. Take a new look at another piece of it that will help the big picture. Rabbit holes of researching or learning about writing are some ways that I’ve kept my big picture. How will you help yours? What are you doing, or are wishing that you could do, to reignite your spirit? Let me know in the comments below. Stay safe out there everyone, and happy writing. 

 

3 Ways Reading Improves Your Writing Skills

If you talk to a writer in the throes of their writing process, you’ll hear a similar thought: “writing is hard”. This is especially true when you’re kind of new to writing, like me. If it’s a writer with the cursed writer’s block, the feeling is tenfold. There are many different ways to help improve your writing skills. Among this list of ideas is one that some writers stay away from like it’s the plague; reading. 

Reading, believe it or not, can be a huge asset to your writing skills. This is a fact that most writers know well, but some still shake their heads at the idea. Reading novels, especially ones in the same genre that you’re writing, is a great way to hone your craft. Think about a book that you love the most in the genre. What do you like about it?  Why do you return to the novel over and over again? Considering these questions can help you improve three aspects of your story. 

1. Stronger Characters

Oftentimes our favorite stories give us examples of how to improve our characters. Reread the novel and consider a few things as you read. What are the strengths of these characters? What are their weaknesses? Are there traits that make them especially likable? If it’s a villain/antagonist, how do they challenge the protagonist? Also, how do all the characters add to the plot progression?

Keep a notebook or laptop beside you and take notes. Consider some of the questions I asked and any others that you feel are important. After you’ve compiled a list of these traits, think about how you can apply them to your novel. Make sure you’re not copying and pasting these characters into your own story. They are inspiration, not parts of a story to recycle. If I recycled traits from Poirot and created a similar Belgian sleuth, it would be obvious. Instead, use general descriptions of the characters you admire and adapt them to your own. Are you a fan of Sherlock Holmes? Instead of creating a carbon copy of the sleuth, hone in on what makes you like him. If it’s his observation skills, use that to create a character with sharp skills in a different way. They could be a smart socialite who can read people from their years of training. Or, they could be a dedicated Doctor who spends hours studying their patients to be the best Doctor they can. 

In some genres it can be hard to take inspiration without people noticing, like the mystery genre. If you have an observant person solving a case, people are going to think of Holmes. Make sure you add other traits to your characters to make them more than a carbon copy.  

2. Honed Writing Style

Deciding on a writing style can be a tricky task. You have to consider the genre, the story, the characters, and what you want to say with your story. This is when consulting books in the same genre is a must. When reading them, pay attention to their style. Are they witty? Is the writing painting a vivid world, or one left up to the reader’s imagination? What kind of words and sentence structure do they use? Is it more light-hearted or serious?

Get that notebook or laptop out again and keep the notes flowing. Jot down some keywords to describe the writing styles you gravitate towards. Do this for stories within and outside the genre you’re writing. Use these words to find the commonalities. If you find the witty and punchy style of Terry Pratchett up your alley, think about why. How can you adapt it to help improve your style? I find it also helps to read the novel that inspires you right before writing. If you have the style and vibe fresh in your mind, it’s way easier to channel it in your own story. Make sure you’re not copying, instead use that style to pull a similar vibe out of your own writing skills. 

3.  Well-formed Plots

Plotting has always been the bane of my existence. I can jump around and write scenes, but putting them into a coherent plot is another story. When I’m lost I look to stories within the genre that I want to write. If you experience a similar situation, ask yourself a few questions while reading. What plot structure are they using? How do they build the story so that the end makes sense? If it’s a mystery, how are they dropping hints to the readers? What about the story structure makes the climax impactful? 

As you’ve suspected, it’s time to take notes. Think about some of the questions I’ve asked, as well as any others you find important to your story. Also, pay attention to how the plot impacts the characters. A good plot has to include character growth! If you can get your hands on a book on plot structure, it’s also a great help. I read Save the Cat Write a Novel by Jessica Brody. It was a real lifesaver! Once you have all your notes complied, try plotting out your own novel. Writing key plot points on notecards and placing them on a wall is a great way to organize. If you want to challenge yourself, try using this method to visualize the plot of the novel you studied. Once you have it in front of you, take notes or pictures of the sections of the plot that you want to put into your own story. With these ideas at hand you can get off to the races!

How does reading improve your writing skills? Is there a novel that inspired you to write? Let me know in the comments below! I hope that you can apply some of this advice to your own stories in the future. Good luck with your writing, and happy reading!

3 Tips to Spark Your Creativity

When I was brainstorming ideas for my next blog post, my mind was a desert. No ideas stuck, and not even my list of post ideas seemed appealing. After countless pep talks from my sister, I decided that there would be no blog post this week. Then, an idea wormed its way into my head minutes before I crawled into bed. Writer’s block is something that all writers know, but where does the issue stem from? It can often be due to your well of creativity drying up. 

You may be thinking, Emily, that’s obvious. The question isn’t why I’m experiencing this cursed block, but how I move past it. Yet looking at the obvious can help solve issues in new ways. While practicing does help spring you from writer’s block prison, it can be a temporary fix. Besides practicing, try looking into the state of your creativity. Is it a flowing well of ideas? Or are you teetering towards a tiny stream? If you feel the ideas decreasing to a trickle, it’s time to look for creative inspiration. Here are three ways that you can restart your creativity.

1. Take a stroll in nature

Nature is a great inspiration for creativity, especially writing! Take a stroll on your favorite street or trail and make notes of the surroundings. The leaves, the bustling city, even the smells that surround you. It’s a great way to send your brain’s observation skills into hyper-drive. With these observation skills, you can use the world around you to build ideas. The color of a leaf sparks a scene of two warriors galloping through the forest. Or the chirping of birds helps you find the missing piece of the song you’re writing. Going back to nature during a block is a great reminder of the creative flow that exists all around us. 

If you are in an environment that isn’t exploration friendly, the internet is your friend. Use Google Earth to look around a place that inspires you. You will miss out on the smells and sounds of the location, but the beauty of the place will still help. Trying searching both man-made landmarks and nature to make up for the lack of immersion. The variety is a great way to inspire world-building in a story where you are stuck. 

2. Listen to a playlist that helps you focus

Music is a lifesaver when you have burnout. The music can silence the distracting part of your brain and help you focus on your creative side. I have a go-to playlist that I listen to whenever I write or need to focus on creative tasks. Try creating playlists based on how you want to channel your creativity. If you’re stuck writing a song, listen to a playlist with songs in a similar genre to help weed out ideas. When I’m writing stories or poetry, I often listen to movie scores that channel certain moods. For an action scene, fast-paced music is my friend. When I write an emotional scene, slow and moving soundtracks give me inspiration. 

If you don’t know what music to choose, look up playlists on your music app. I found a great playlist on Spotify called Cinematic Chillout. It helps me turn off my crazy brain and focus on the task at hand. They also have playlists by mood. It’s great for writers hoping to channel certain emotions into their scenes. Once you have a playlist for your task, use it as often as possible. Your brain will pair that music with focus and creativity. It will turn on the focus when it hears familiar melodies. 

3. Revisit projects that inspire you

Throughout the years, we stumble across projects that inspire us to create. Whether it is a song or a movie, the final product sparks our creativity. In my last blog post, I talked about a few people who have created inspiring projects. What are the projects that inspire you? Make a list of projects and people who you find inspiring. When you’re struggling, revisit the list and check out one of the projects. 

While you are enjoying the project, ask yourself why you like it. Are the characters well developed? Does it have a witty writing style? Write down these answers for each of your favorite projects and look for common traits. If it’s a writing style, warm up by writing about your characters in that writing style. Use this as a jumping-off point to improve your skills in that writing style. It’s important to take these traits as tools to improve your creativity instead of copying. Don’t copy dialogue you love word-for-word. Instead, channel the tone and style of the dialogue in your work.

How do you restart your creativity? Let me know in the comments below! Any suggestions to crack the creativity code are welcome. If you decide to try out one of these methods, keep me posted on your progress. Happy creating!