Do the work. Face the page. Butt in chair. Fingers on keys. All chants of writers hunkering down to attempt to create something from a blank expanse of nothing, to take an ethereal idea, world, people, and turn it into something tangible—words on a page. True, all these sayings are necessary steps, but after several years of writing fiction and teaching for a living (in other words, butt in chair, fingers on keys) I found the joy gone from my writing. Sure, I had moments of euphoria, and no question, I absolutely love to write. Once I began, something generally happened. Except for the time or two when nothing did. Panic time! I suddenly found many things needing my attention and pretty soon I was doing them before writing instead of re-facing that blank page. Writing had changed from my heart and soul into my work, my job. And as my supervisor, I found my attitude and attendance lacking. I needed to figure out a way to once again make writing fun.
I made a playdate with my book. Best decision I’ve made in a long time. When we allow the left (logic) brain into our creativity, the right (creative) brain hightails it out of Dodge, and it’s all over. Making a play date shifted my thinking from writing as work to writing as fun. When it’s fun, your right-brain creativity starts flowing, and the work part naturally follows. After getting excited about my book and having fun with it for a few hours, writing was again a privilege, not something I “had” to do.
So no matter what you are writing—or with any artistic endeavor—give up the guilt and create for the joy of it. Make writing fun! Awakening your creative soul with “play” is as valid as any of the “work” you will do on your project. Here is one idea for your play date with creativity.
Make Writing Fun – Collage/Mix Media Your Way to Inspiration
A vision board is a visual intention—a smattering of photos, words, objects, anything you can think of attached to a board to keep you focused and inspired on what you want to achieve throughout the year. Why not make one for your writing project? Represent the specifics of your book—photos for pieces of your book’s world, the characters, clothing, buildings; and also use words—snippets of phrases, philosophies, your theme, etc. After you create your collage, put it in a place where you can see it so it can inspire you daily.
Make Writing Fun – Discover a Treasure Map to Your Story
Mind mapping is a terrific way to brainstorm and organize your thoughts, which at a first glance, doesn’t sound so great for a playdate. But revise your attitude and think of mind mapping as uncovering a treasure map of discovery! Use anything from a large sheet of paper and markers to a whiteboard, to a computer program (to see my personal favorite, take a look at www.mindnode.com).
Start with an idea, character or place and draw a circle. Branch off from there. If it’s a place, who lives there? What challenges are there? List any that take your attention and circle them, then branch off from there. If it’s a character you have in mind, list pieces of their background.
XXX got thrown out of school (circle that) because of playground violence (line and circle that) because when his little brother was being pressured to join the gang, unbeknownst to his family, he jumped in to take brother’s place (line and circle that and start another branch for brother) but then brother was killed in a drive-by (line connecting brothers and circle that) and character goes after gang member in school (circle that and draw a dotted line to the thrown out of school circle—now you have an entire “gang” branch from school). His mother is at work when the son is killed—she has two jobs to keep her family afloat (absent mother—circle that and begin brainstorming reasons for inattention). Wait! Mom is a recovering alcoholic who has cleaned up her act for her two young sons. Or has she? Circle mom and start branching off for her. Is she who your story is about? The son? The killed brother? Someone else? Is it the auntie, not the mom who is trying to raise these boys? Put that idea in a circle and follow it.
At this point, it doesn’t matter, it’s just some notes on a board, not a committed story. Make writing fun, trust your curiosity and follow where your creativity takes you. You don’t need to use all the ideas on the page. Mind map, treasure map, no need to split hairs. Just go.
Use your map as the basis of your vision-collage, or vice-versa. Work on them at the same time. Meld words, photos, circles. Whatever moves you. Remember, you are dreaming on the page. Anything goes.
Oh. And don’t forget to have a pile of note-cards to jot your thoughts on and don’t worry about rearranging or if they are good ideas or bad.
Make writing fun by just writing without stopping to worry or think. Trust me, the ideas will come so fast, it will be hard for you to keep up with them. And isn’t that a great problem to have?
Award-winning novelist Kathy Steffen teaches fiction writing and speaks at writing programs across the country. Additionally, Kathy is also published in short fiction and pens a monthly writing column, Between the Lines. Her books, FIRST THERE IS A RIVER, JASPER MOUNTAIN and THEATER OF ILLUSION are available online and at bookstores everywhere.