This is for you authors out there. We give a lot of thought to laying the word on the page, technically, don’t we? Those EM dashes, oxford commas, adverbs—they occupy a lot of our mind energy. Some people do this easily; others depend heavily on their VERY trusty editors (and we ALL need them). The good news is everyone can learn syntax and get better at the technical part of it, just by practice.
But consider this. It doesn’t matter how flawless we are technically if the trip our readers’ take isn’t exceptional. The REAL gift is our imaginations. The scenarios, characters, times, and worlds we create are what entertains our readers. It’s what brings them back between the page and ask us for more.
So how do we nurture this most critical element of our writing career? I’ve spent some time considering that. I almost envy first time authors, sitting down with that first novel. They have nothing to lose and nothing to live up to. They are freer than they will ever be in their writing life! But all is not lost for the rest of us. There are some little tricks that can get you in that grove and help you bust down the floodgates to let creativity run wild and deep. (That was such a cheesy metaphor; I almost want to apologize…)
First off, figure out when you feel most rested. Is it morning? Night? Midday? Then, set that time away for writing. Get medieval on this, folks. No phones, no dock indicating you have emails, tweets, or facebook friend requests, no doorbells to be answered, etc. If you simply can’t tear yourself away from these things, it might be harder to go there.
Second, a good pair of noise canceling headphones can sometimes help the cause, especially if you’re traveling.
Streaming music WITHOUT words can sometimes contribute to the proper mood and lift you away. Music is very powerful. Some publishers are even inviting their authors to contribute soundtrack lists they might find reasonable to match certain scenes, for their readers’ enjoyment!
Next, write like no one will ever read it. If you are thinking what someone—mom, grandpa, your kids—will thing of that scene, you are NOT hitting the mark. That is mechanized writing and will fall into the lost pile of mechanized crap, a place no one goes for fear of catching…absolutely nothing.
Then, cut out the rif-raff. This can be hard to do, but I mean the mind sucks that attach themselves to us. We all have them. Maybe it’s paying bills? Get familiar with auto-pay. Maybe it’s that one friend that just has to talk and talk and talk. Treat your writing time as though it is serious work. You are a surgeon with your hands in a patient. Don’t bother me right now! Maybe it’s a dirty desk. Find a studio with nothing in it but your desk and laptop. Maybe it’s candy crush. Okay…let’s not go crazy here. No, just kidding, treat your writing like a child that must be fed and feed it. You wouldn’t play your game before you fed your kid! Oh, that brings up word count. Turn it off. If you’re looking at word count, your on an assembly line. Jump off of it and just write.
Finally, embrace that inner rebel. As an author, you are a child, a dying man, MadMax, Scarlet O’Hara. When you ride the city bus, sit in a theater, walk down the street, you are generally constrained by civility. When you write, imagine that you are a creature like no other, caged in a crate that barely holds you, and the crate is perched on a cliffside somewhere. The rest of humanity fears your raw peculiarity so much that they fling the doors of the crate open and tip it so that you plunge beyond. Little do they know you are also invincible. Write like you are that creature on its way down.
Children have no problem inviting the fantastic into their minds. As we grow up, we naturally lose that ability. Exercise it now. Spend your NON-writing hours inviting the fantastic back into your daily thought process. I firmly believe that you can train your mind to think creatively, just like an imagination workout. And the good news is you can do it anywhere, anytime, with anyone else around. Fuel it.
Then, when someone asks you, “Hey, what are you thinking?” and you say, “nothing,” but what you’re really thinking is, “Max’s dog would be a good writing partner,” you’ll know you’re on the right tract!
(From Mad Max, Road Warrior)