Writing Tip: When the Ideas Just Aren’t Coming, Try This.

Posted on 13. Jan, 2011 by in Blog, Writing Tips

With our frantic lifestyles these days, it can be harder than ever to slow down enough to kick-start a story and get the flow of ideas going. Because of this, I’d like to offer a suggestion that’s become relevant since so many of us are connected 24/7 to our email, Twitter and Facebook accounts.

During the holidays, from December 24th to January 3rd, I put a ‘CLOSED’ sign on my email inbox and by that, I mean I created an auto response email that said, ‘Closed for the holidays.’ Of course, this didn’t stop email from appearing in my inbox, but it was effective because I didn’t feel obliged to respond to emails. Very liberating!

That prompted me to try something else. I deleted my email accounts from my iPhone and folks, the difference has been amazing. I have regained control of my day. Now, messages don’t just appear on my phone or computer screen and distract me from the task at hand. I have to decide to visit a particular website and, instead of being constantly interrupted, I am in control of the pace and focus of my day once again.

What has happened, exactly? I have regained control of my interstitial moments. The definition of interstice is a ‘short space of time between events’, those moments between a task, or a change of activity or location. After taking this radical action, I found that, a couple of times a day, I wondered, just for a split-second, what I was supposed to be doing. That made me realize that these times, these minutes and even seconds, are one of the keys to setting the pace and tone of our lives. These are the moments when we might notice a red flash in the garden and turn to see a cardinal swoop across a grey sky like a splash of paint. How delightful! Then we might wonder what our characters see through their windows. Our subconscious takes note of these small wonderings and, when we sit down to write, we find out. By eliminating the surprise attacks of technology, I’ve taken these joyful moments back. By refusing to be distracted by the pings and flashes of incoming social media every second of the day, I have regained these specks of consciousness, these moments of awareness.

Which leads beautifully to my favorite writing exercise of all time, one that’s taught in writing programs across the country (I learned it from the talented Sari Friedman, in the early ’90’s). It’s a guaranteed way for any writer, of any level or experience, to write a solid paragraph, to reconnect your senses, and remind you why you wanted to write in the first place. Tomorrow: A Moment of Being a la Virginia Woolf.

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