Music and Dreams: More Inspiration

One of my friends made the suggestion of writing a post on music as an inspiration for writing. She is absolutely right. Music is a strong inspiration for many writers.

Music is like poetry actually put to a melody, rather than relying on the words to create rhythm. I used to write songs and even still have some poems that have specific music that goes along with them. Music offers a connection to emotions. If you want to write a sad story or poem and you out on  Last Kiss by Pearl Jam (on of the saddest songs I know) it may help you connect or harness that emotion. Purely orchestral music is a great source as well. Without the words supplied, you can interpret the composition any way you feel. Another way music serves as inspiration is through the rhythm itself, not just emotional connection. The style or format of the words to help reinforce the music behind it can be used to as an example. A lot of songs use devices common in writing  -rhyme, alliteration, metaphors – which can help you generate a tone, flow and use writing devices more often.

I realized another source of inspiration -dreams, as I was starting to write about music. Dreams, I believe are another strong inspiration.

I have very vivid dreams that I use a lot in my writing. With details very pinpointed like a red teapot in a grey background and a whole strange story unfolding, there is always some emotion attached to the dream. Even if you do not have vivid dreams, most people find the early morning one of the best times to write, probably because even though you may not remember your dreams in detail some essence lingers and drives your creative senses. If you have not tried writing in the early morning, as close to as soon as you wake up as possible, try it one morning. For that matter, if you normally write in the morning, try writing in the evening, late at night or the afternoon. Just the change in time could inspire something in your writing.

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Tools for the Writer

Many, many, MANY resources are out there for a writers advantage. Each tool helps spark ideas, regain momentum while writing or unblocks the dreaded writers block. Generally, I keep (on my bookshelf, in a cabinet or on the computer) a bunch of resources that I find work particularly well; some common among writers, others not quite so common.

Common Tools for the Writer 

The basic tools a writer should have close at hand, ones you think of first and probably already own, yet no matter how many times you back to them they still prove just as useful as the last time.

  • Dictionary– Of course, I must list the dictionary first as one of the most obvious tools used to look up words as a writer needs when unsure of the meaning. However, dictionaries are a great way to spur random words just by flipping to pages each day at random and selecting a word. One practice that maybe useful (if you have not yet tried it) is each time you sit down to write, before you start, randomly select a word and at some point during your writing attempt to use it in the work.
  • Thesaurus– The great tool to help find exactly the right words when yours are not quite accomplishing what you want. However, it can lead to a writer overusing synonyms and losing the meaning or sincerity in the writing. Try not to rely heavily on a thesaurus. One way I edit is I go through my poem and circle all the words that seem to not fit well. Then I use a thesaurus to see if I missed something that works better. Typically, I only circle one or two words and when I read the thesaurus I do no necessarily use anything I find, but just throwing around different words helps me think in different directions.
  • Books of Inspiration– Everyone should keep books that inspire them nearby while writing, whether they are writing exercise workbooks, journals, you own personal diary, photograph collections or novels that just inspired you when you read them. I have already mentioned Pocket Muse, by Monica Wood, a wonderful source of writing encouragement, but this is just one of several books of inspiration I keep on my bookshelf. Another noteworthy workbook I keep handy, In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop, by Steve Kowit, is especially good if you are wanting to experiment with styles of poetry. Each chapter gives the reader the chance to write 3 different poems based on the topics of the chapter. For a dedicated writer this could lead to a whole new notebook full of poems. Beyond workbooks, I have several collections of poetry, I have already read through, that I keep close by to flip through and analyze what works, what doesn’t and why to keep my brain working right. (I think it’s important to read bad poetry as well as good). One of my favorites is The Pocket Book of Verse: Great English and American Poems, because it is simply about 100 poems from well known poets, but what I love most, is I really enjoy some of the poetry, while others I dislike greatly.

Uncommon Tools for the Writer  

While painting you can use absolutely anything around you as a brush, your hand -a Q-tip, a spoon, a hot-wheels car- everything creates a different effect and should probably be experimented with at some point. Like painting a writer can use any source as a tool. I greatly enjoy and probably reap the most fruitful work when using unconventional writing tools. Here are just a few of my favorites, but remember that any source can be a resource.

  • Lists, Lists, Lists– Not only are lists categorized, but they are completely adaptable. You can continue adding and organizing the content however you wish to suit your needs. I keep lists on any major theme I have in my poems; flowers, trees, types of clouds, rocks, fragrances, foods, spices and seasonings, cities, and interesting objects. I continue to add, change or create new lists. My flowers list is organized several different ways like by color, scent (how strong or musky), how interesting they look, and simply alphabetical. So when I look for a white flower that starts with “C” I find camellia and carnation. By keeping lists on the computer, through a word processor, you can add pictures, links and organize the several ways with minimal effort.
  • Notebook of Words- This almost falls into the category with lists… almost. A notebook of words would seem like just a huge list (which it basically is) but it functions a little differently. While with the organization that lists give help you grab that very particular thing you need, a notebook of words is not organized and instead helps generate ideas or a different thought process. Fill a notebook with words that catch your attention, words you love the meaning or sound of, or words that make you gnash your teeth, and suddenly you are developing a stronger vocabulary for your own unique voice.
  • Medical Books– Now this one I highly recommend. Medical books are a great source of terms usually not used in poetry as well as a great resource to examine the body. It may be helpful to explain an emotion by using very specific part of the body that is affected or have available illnesses or reactions that would be descriptive in new and interesting way. Just looking at the muscle form or the nervous system can get you thinking in different ways. Phrases like “my heart skips a beat” become fresh and renewed with words like arythmia.

 

I hope this post gives you ideas for using different tools while writing, or common tools in new ways. If you have any unique tools or want to share ideas (or just have something to say) – leave a comment 🙂

Writing Poetry and the Creative Process

The creative process is something very individual and differs from person to person. One may have a very strict way of writing, others thrive in chaos. Take for example Diane Keaton’s character from Something’s Gotta Give, and Emma Thompson’s character from Stranger Than Fiction. Keaton’s character looked herself up to write, she got away to a house by the beach, and although it took major inspiration from leaving her comfort zone in her life, she still sat down, at a desk – clean, clear, and void of distractions. Now, Thompson’s character wrote anywhere she pleased, traveling around the city, creating scenarios out of the ordinary into something interesting. Although the room she wrote in was white and had a clear feel, her desk was scattered with notes, papers and trash. Both approaches, whether organized or messy, clear or chaotic, are perfectly acceptable -it all depends on what drives inspiration.

I personally, sit somewhere between the two extremes. I need quiet to focus, but I hardly ever do well when I set a specific and consistent time to write each day. On the same note, however, deadlines are wonderfully inspiring. And that’s really what writing is about, inspiration -finding it, harnessing it and transferring it to words. In order to achieve the finding, harnessing and transferring inspiration, my creative process includes and follows important steps: source of inspiration, time and space, and editing.

Source of Inspiration

Inspiration can come from absolutely anything; a word, picture, person, building, nature, machine, an abstraction. The key is looking, being open minded and consciously seeing the world through your own eyes, in your own way. Whenever I am lacking inspiration I do something like read or google image random things. If I am able to go somewhere I take a drive or a walk. Vacations are great time to write because of the change of scenery, it’s offering something new, but just doing something out of your normal routine is likely to bring up something worth writing about.

If doing something does not produce any kick starts I often look at prompts and writing exercises and try to get a start with that. There is a GREAT book titled, Pocket Muse: Ideas and Inspiration for Writingthat has some nice prompts, and wonderful pictures. I read the book through one of my college poetry workshops and have kept it close by when writing since. I highly recommend it, if your looking for a pocket sized mini manual.

Time and Space

As I already mentioned I need quiet to write, but as for the actual area it can literally be anywhere. I have written poems in a math class, on the edge of the Grand Canyon, in bed after waking up in the middle of night, in a car, it just all depends on when something hits me. I try to keep a pen and some scraps of paper handy because I know that’s how I write.

The best tactic to is know yourself. Are you a clean person who gets the best ideas on fresh paper? Keep a clean and organized work space. Maybe calendar a block of time each day to write and stick to it. If you tend to be more chaotic, calendar outings/activities (a park, a social event your not accustomed to) and don’t forget a notepad. Whatever your personality -whoever you liken yourself to more, Keaton or Thompson- I would still suggest at least keeping a designated area to write. Having your own desk or even just a folder and couch, whether its filled with scraps and folded papers or color coded dividers, is important. It allows you the ability to turn off the world around you and focus -to harness that inspiration into one space. At the very least it reminds you to write.

Editing

Editing is probably the most important step -and the hardest. Determining what, out of all the hard work, should stay and what should be ditched is frustrating and sometimes we get attached to our writing and do not want to waste it. I generally edit as I write -line by line, if something does not work the way I want it is hard for me to move on, but after it’s done I have an especially hard time editing the poem as a whole. In order to move past that difficulty I let it rest. Maybe, for a week or a month I won’t read the poem so that when I go back to it it’s fresh and I can more openly see what works and does not. The book I previously mentioned, Pocket Muse, also has some encouraging comments for the editing nervous individuals. Because of that book I don’t harbor those terrible feelings after tossing pages of that hard, hard work.

Another thing I try to do to make editing more tolerable is keep the scraps that don’t work in one poem or piece, but that I have a difficult time parting with and try to use them to build something that will work -sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.

 

So that’s it, my creative writing process, but since this process is very individual and I’m sure you guys have found things that work or don’t work for you. I would love to read your individual processes, so, go ahead, in the comments leave something 🙂

Thanks for reading, following and commenting.

 

Just a Few Details

As promised I am giving you guys a little bit more detail on the upcoming book I am close to publishing. This first book is a collection of poetry. Though I have a couple of notebooks full of poems, this particular collection will have about 50 total. I wanted to aim for an amount that was substantial, but not overwhelming. Another reason for the very medium number of poems to be included is that I am also focusing on a very specific theme that every poem will revolve around. Hopefully, with somewhere around 50 poems, I develop the sensations I would like the readers to sympathize with and, through progression, a discovery of the subtleties within my theme without sounding redundant.

I am still writing and editing, which has me thinking I should post a topic on the creative process. So although this post is short and just gives everyone a small glimpse at the basis for my book I am referring you to my next post (up right after this) and hope you share your creative processes as well.

Gathering

Here I plan to detail my experience with publishing my first book. Hopefully along the way this blog will grow into a station where others can share their experiences as well. When everything starts going smoothly (as of right now I am learning the ropes of blogging and self-publishing) I will start putting up prompts, excersices and continuing to post my progresses as a writer.

I have detailed an agenda to follow for the next two months that involves continuing to edit and arrange my book, set up this blog, gain awareness, and employ the beginnings of a marketing plan.

For this upcoming week my goal is to arrange my writing so that it flows well from page to page and continue to design the cover art.

Should I tell you about the book? Of course I should! I am writing a collection of poetry, and I know, poetry may not have a wild audience, but it is a passion of mine and I am hoping that I can spread a little bit of that to others. More details on this book in next post!

As well as writing poetry I intend on writing a novel. I have been working on one for about 6 years without major headway in the actually getting it to words process, but as far as the story and characters go, I am 6 years involved with them and have a connection that at some point needs to be shared. I will be starting this endeavor when my collection is published and out of my head.

That’s all for now, next post soon.

Lizbeth