Thursday, October 25, 2012

Boost Your Writing Energy with Cool Resources for Writing Inspiration--Presentations, Prompts, and Paris

What if a trip to Paris, say for three months, would bring back your writing enthusiasm?   

What if you kept a daily writing journal, scribbling ideas and images that come to you as you turn on the creative faucet inside?  Would it make a difference in how often you put pen to page?

What if you had a new writing prompt every day for a year--ones that really work?  Would that boost your writing energy?

All three of these methods are available to writers at any skill level.  They simply ask you to consider the possibility of new energy in your creative life.  It's really not so hard.  All excuses fall away when you're enthused about something--ever notice that?  So the key is to boost the energy, find the enthusiasm again.
  
How do you traverse the gap between what you dream of and what you're actually doing? 

Mind the Gap! 
Everyone gets down on their writing sometimes.  It's natural to feel discouraged when you see the gap between your imagination and what you manage to get on the page. Writer Ira Glass calls it the gap between our taste and our skill.  Glass says that everyone experiences this gap, and it's always disappointing when you notice it.

It takes a while to close the gap, he says.  And the only way to do this is to produce a lot of work.  To keep going.  It's really painful to see this gap, and many writers quit when they become aware of it.  So, join the club of those who are much more advanced in taste than skill and keep going no matter what.

This video details Glass's words and it is worth many views (created by David Shiyang Liu):


Ira Glass on the Creative Process (www.getoutthebox.org)
Ira Glass on the Creative Process (www.getoutthebox.org)

As Glass says, hitting the gap is very predictable, almost guaranteed.  Each writer has different timing for this ignoble experience.   

Some writers are able to keep going without noticing the gap until they have a complete manuscript draft.  What a golden moment to print those pages!  What a difficult experience to begin reading them.  Wait . . . this was a lot better yesterday.  Hmmm . . . this chapter makes no sense.   

Others hit the gap the first time they give some pages to a reader (friend, family, writers group) and get serious questions back.  Or worse, serious critique.  Enthusiasm instantly dies.   

Others find it the first time they take a writing class.  Sailing along in unconscious incompetence, the class forces them to another level--conscious incompetence.  Being a beginner again is not everyone's happy experience.  So the manuscript goes into a drawer.   

Why Writing Practice Gets You Past the Gap 
The beauty of writing practice is that it lubricates this moment.  If you're already writing every day, or three times a week, or whatever your practice, you keep writing.

You use the writing practice as a way to move through this uncomfortable level and practice the new skills you're learning.  Practice reading feedback and sifting through it for the useful gems.  Practice organizing that 300 page tome and finding the chapters that need reworking.
 
If you don't have a practice in place, there's a good chance you'll stop writing.  As Glass says, the only way to get through this is to produce a huge volume of work.  In other words, to keep writing.  

There's the challenge.  To keep going forward even when you feel like all you're churning out is trash.  How do writers do this?  They look for inspiration--a breathing in of possibility.   

Three books came my way recently.  Each has inspired me to keep writing.  Each has taken me past the gap in my current book project, from the honeymoon period into a successful working marriage with my novel-in-progress.  Maybe they will inspire you as well!    

A Writer's Paris by Eric Maisel is beautifully put together, with small pen-and-ink, collage, and wash illustrations of Paris.  Maisel's theory is that anyone can write for three months in Paris, and he teaches you how--both logistically and philosophically.  But this little book is useful even if you don't plan on traveling to the City of Lights.  Each chapter, averaging four to five pages, is chock full of ideas and tips to keep you writing.  Maisel clearly outlines why writers don't write and how they can start again--and keep going--whether they are in Paris or Boise.



A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves is another go-to book for writing inspiration.  Reeves has organized a year of writing prompts and ideas that work for any level of skill and enthusiasm.  You can use it like a personal Artist's Way journey for the writer, traveling carefully through the weeks and doing each day's prompt, or you can browse to topics like character, plot, setting, and everything in between.  I found that many of the prompts took me so vividly into my writing, that I didn't need the book again for quite a few days--it was that inspiring.  So, honestly, this book could last you years.    

 


A Writer's Workbook by Caroline Sharp is completely different in tone to Reeves's book, but it offers a similar wealth of ideas.  This book, of the three mentioned here, felt like the most serious, and it's the one I go to when I'm experiencing the gap during revision.  Sharp offers stretching exercises (like warm-ups) then dives right in to very meaty topics, using images as well as word prompts to get you going.  She believes strongly in the daily writing practice and urges writers to start a writing journal or notebook.  Again, so many great prompts within these pages, it'll keep you nourished for years. 

 

We All Struggle!
This last presentation for your "inspiration" this week is a TED talk by writer Elizabeth Gilbert, famous for her memoir Eat, Pray, Love.  I find it very inspiring to listen to a writer talk about the down side of success, and how there's still the daily struggle with the page.
Elizabeth Gilbert: Your elusive creative genius
Elizabeth Gilbert: Your elusive creative genius

Writing is hard because it's just you and the page, day after day.  This is also its beauty.  Perhaps one of these presentations, prompts, or Paris ideas will inspire you to keep going if your writing has fallen into the gap.