Four Ways to Live Your Writing

What do I mean by Live Your Writing? Let me start with an opposite explanation. If you treat your writing as just beginning when you sit down to type, then you are not living your writing. If your writing is an afterthought of your day, an isolated concentration separate from your daily events, then you are not living your writing. The following four suggestions will help you find ways to incorporate your writing into your life when your fingers are not holding a pen or tapping keys.

One: You can train your brain to be observant in a more focused way and to aim these observations at writing ideas. We run around being busy at our jobs, taking care of our children, driving to and fro, shopping for food or clothing, going out to dinner with friends and lovers, engaging in a myriad of moments in time that comprise what we call our lives. So during these events, steal a moment and practice new thought patterns. Be more aware. Look for opportunities. They surround you. For example, at a restaurant, deliberately look at anyone nearby and mentally describe that person as you would on the page. Create that person as a character. You don’t have to develop him fully or even have a need for him in your work. Just build him – hair, eyes, clothing. Listen to his tone of voice, observe his mannerisms and then use the words that would show exactly what you see to someone who is not present. While standing in line at a public place, imagine a scene (for instance) where a hooded individual enters the room. Is he up to mischief or prejudged and misunderstood? Build upon this. Ask yourself, “How would my protagonist respond to this person?” This is a great way to get in touch with the core of the character you have been creating whether this scenario fits into your story or not. My character has become more and more alive to me as I place her in my life. I am living my writing.

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Two: I call this my “Mister Potato Head Exercise”. You have family members and/or groups of friends and co-workers. You see strangers in a store. Randomly, take only one characteristic from each of them and make one person out of those findings. This is a helpful exercise to improve your ability to construct a character in a more life-like form. Plus, you will get surprising results! Experimenting with this technique will broaden your ability to create characters and will give you whole new ideas and stories. I suggest you do this while you are observing the group. For example, combine Aunt Mary’s shuffle with Uncle George’s whiskey voice and brother Jim’s aggravating habit of chawing tobacco and couple with sister Beth’s hilarious sense of humor or guffawing laughter. Do the same with their articles of clothing, body size, tattoos, disabilities, color and texture of hair and how one keeps it tidy, or not. Add real dialogue you have heard them say. Do they smell of overpowering perfume, body odor, sickening sweetness? Voila! On paper you have built a character with no trouble at all. You are living your writing.

Three: For those of you without a cell phone camera, carry a camera with you wherever you go – to PTA meetings, the mall, just driving down a country road or inner city. You WILL see something interesting to photograph such as a real-life odd character, a really strange looking outfit someone is wearing, a beautiful tree bearing 35hcolorful fall foliage or a falling down building covered in gang graffiti. When you get home or to a destination like good old Starbuck’s, blow up that picture and in your trusty spiral notebook that has become a part of your equipment, write a thorough description of what you see, so thorough that your reader can exactly visualize that image. You are making things happen in your writing and building your writing skill. You are living your writing.

Four:  I call this practice “Object Training.” For instance, while being bored stiff waiting in a stifling doctor’s waiting room (they don’t call these rooms “waiting” for no reason), focus on an object, any object. My favorite is a doorknob. How many things can you say about a doorknob? I have perfected a list on this invention so here is a partial list. It is a wonderful invention that replaced a rope looped through a couple of holes in a wooden door. It has been developed to be made from various substances with a multiple of colors and textures and surfaces. There are metal ones, ceramics, rounded. Some have handles, some have handles that open from the left, some from the right. What kind of lock is included on the knob? Does it have a lock? What company manufactured it? How old is it? Now there is a research question. Does it make a sound when it is turned or the door is slammed? Does it feel smooth to the touch, cold, even warm? Before you know it, you are mentally putting one in your story and including the mystery of what lies behind the door. Before the nurse calls your name, you have been living your writing.

Additional useful methods will appear on this blog which will inspire your writing and make your own original ideas come to you less effortlessly. Stay tuned.

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