Ray Bradbury called this Feeding the Muse in his book “Zen in the Art of Writing”. He suggests reading poetry “because it flexes muscles you don’t use often enough. It keeps you aware of your nose, your eyes, your ear, your tongue, your hand.”
He advised finding “books to improve your color sense, your sense of shape and size in the world,” because sometimes your characters must “use their noses and ears or they may miss half the smells and sounds of the city, and all the sounds of the wilderness…”
Beyond one’s own personal life experiences, reading is food the muse, opening our minds to new ideas and direction and describing the world in which your story exists.
Make Time to Write
“A writer writes…always!” Isn’t that what Billy Crystal said in “Throw Mama from the Train”? This is a common piece of advice many writers hear but it is one of the most important important to take to heart. The more consistent time spent writing, the more your proficiency and skill will improve.
Whether you have time for 350 words or 1500, making time and prioritizing that time to sit down to write will be what turns an abstract idea or those two sentences of the first paragraph written 2 months ago into a fully developed story.
Be consistent and isolate yourself from distractions. Write even when you don’t feel like it. Sometimes forcing some words, any words onto the page will break through whatever fog is obscuring your creativity. You might even surprise yourself. However, if this fails to break through the creative blocks do free writing based on collected writing prompts, outline a story or do research. All this keeps you on track towards meeting the writing goals you set for yourself.
Create Your Own Space
An integral part of maintaining your creative consistency is finding and claiming that one spot that’s all your own, at least for the time you set aside for writing. Keep it free of distractions, free of things that will keep you from entering the zone or pull you out once you’ve lost yourself within it. This will be place of comfortable isolation, unique to your needs be it set amidst a scattered clutter of scribbled papers, a small rolling utility cart in the garage or a bright clean desk with space for you and your laptop to spread out, this will be your writing space.
Enter a Contest
Entering a contest gives you a deadline to work towards. I don’t know about you but I work better and become more focused when I have to meet a deadline. It may help you direct your energies.
If you’re like me at all, you have scraps of paper scrawled with quick story ideas stuffed into a manila folder just to keep them together, or an ever-expanding list of story ideas wedged into a special place in your documents file on your computer. Open up that folder, compare your list of ideas to the various writing contest themes, find one that will work for both you and the contest expectations and set to it.
This route can help motivate you to develop an idea, build it into a well told story within a prescribed length and time-frame.
Even if you don’t place, take heart, you will have pulled yourself through the full process of writing a story from beginning to end. Go back through it with an objective eye asking yourself where the plot can be tightened, where relationships can be fleshed out, where the conflict can be further developed. Then send it out again, perhaps to a literary journal this time.
Learn Something New
They say, “Write what you know” but that well of experiences can run a bit shallow for some of us, so consider learning something knew. Make an effort to gain new experiences, observe the world around you. Take a trip and breathe in new experiences. Take on a research project, soak up what you learn and create based on that new knowledge.
Finish a Project
Dust off an old piece of unfinished writing you set aside and promised to get back to eventually. Lean back in a comfortable chair, give it a good read. You might just be able to breathe new life into the old, tucked away piece. See where it can be improved, further developed and finished up.
Keep it Attainable
Whatever resolutions or goals you set for yourself make sure they are attainable. Don’t chain yourself to the overloaded weight of lofty goals. More than likely that will serve only to discourage. Start small and let each step build upon the one before.
- Set a daily or weekly word count that you know you can meet then as you are able to consistently meet that goal, push for a an extra hundred words or one more page making that your new daily or weekly quota.
- Commit to one blog post a week then work up to two then three. They don’t have to be masterpieces of the written word but something slightly entertaining for your readers. Sometimes even a creative or quirky picture will do.
- Write a short story instead of a whole novel if you’ve never tackled a book before.
- Finish that current book before tackling a new one.
- Write a collection of interrelated shorts that could, once built upon one another, become a full-length book. Once again small steps.
Start Calling Yourself a Writer
This all started writing for various reasons. Maybe it was a dream from the innocence of youth. Or it was a talent for the written word discovered (or rediscovered) later in life. Or perhaps the task was taken up to make some money during difficult times. Or it started simply for the joy of watching the stories come to life from the conjuring of one’s own mind. Regardless of the reason you’ve committed time, energy and whole portions of your inner being to those creations. Is it not time to commit to one more thing. Is it not time to commit to calling yourself a Writer?