Posts Tagged ‘ideas’

What kind of day is today? The kind where I discover that at some point during my recent computer update, several important files were overwritten by earlier versions of themselves.

Sure, that’s the stuff of fiction, and authors could have a field day building a world where people can buy younger versions of themselves. In my case, however, I wouldn’t want to slough off a decade of experience and I really didn’t want to lose three months of data. 

Happy news, however! I am paranoid about such things (the data part, not the “waking up to find that someone has siphoned off years and you’re left to bumble around in a world that has moved on without you” part). 

Backups. I have many (many) backups. One of them came through.

I spent too long rescuing files from the depths of this software update, but 1) rescue them I did, and 2) I came up with a fun new story idea. So it’s all good:)

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Photo by Alexander Sinn on Unsplash

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I may have a new favorite mug.

For no reason whatsoever, I decided that I would be much more productive if I had a new mug. When one is writing or slogging through the data mines or sailing with a letter of marque on the Great Internet Seas, a mug is a friendly, forthright, supportive companion. Choose right, and it’s a burst of good cheer on a cloudy day.

Sure, it’s a weird fixation, but it’s cheaper than drugs. And it works.

I got these mugs from Roy Kirkham in Staffordshire, England. The good: the colors are rich, the designs pretty, and the china delicate. The bad? Shipping. And duties. That said, I really like these. 

The one in the middle with the robin is my new favorite.

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The ideas are bubbling up already!

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“Spring is the time of plans and projects.”

― Leo Tolstoy

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If only it were that simple!
Photos by Gabriel Jimenez, Markus Spiske, Tobias Stonjeck

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A few days ago I talked about finding ideas, and even better, how to find good ideas. But what comes after that? After a writer sifts through the mountain of “not bad” and “ok” and even “pretty good” ideas and finds the one that is worth investing in, what comes next?

Because that’s what you’re doing, investing your time, energy, creativity, and care into this little story seed. How can you give it the best chance to grow up healthy and strong?

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Elizabeth Bear has a useful piece out about taking ideas to the next level:

A post office box in Schenectady.

“I used to despair of coming up with A Great Idea. Eventually I discovered that the way to make my not-so-great ideas better is to keep asking more complicated questions about them.”

For writing in general (and as previously discussed), a good first step is to check out Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain

Once you’ve done that, what’s next? I moved on to Stein on Writing.

And what do you know, I roughed out notes for that book too. If you’re interested, check out the PDF below!

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And when it comes right down to it, this is some of the best advice on creativity I’ve seen:

can’t find the original post/s but here is a screenshot that was living under a digital rock in my computer files, next to many other fascinating and under-utilized resources

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And to be clear, yes, I like sparkle:)

Photo by 3Motional Studio on Pexels.com

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This is a somewhat random selection of books I like.

What do they have in common? Awesomeness, that’s what (at least to my mind:). But at their core, they each have a different, clever, well thought-out idea that powers the story engine. And this is just a selection of one person’s likes. There are so many ways to tell a story, and so many ideas from which to start. 

Great. So how do you get to a good idea?

“The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.”

— Linus Pauling

Excellent, so helpful. It’s good to have goals. But if you’re like me, you might be wondering what exactly that means, and how one goes about it?

So glad you asked! There are lots of ways, of course, from diving in with a crappy first draft (I do like this approach, so helpful for getting past blocks, but it can waste a lot of time), writing prompts, genre-bending or gender-bending existing ideas, to headline news to updated fairy tales to history. And when I’ve seen most professional writers talk about this, getting ideas isn’t really the problem.

It’s getting a good idea. How do we do that?

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Here is a ten-part approach to generating, selecting, and growing ideas from Scott Myers. He recommends generating an idea a day for a month, to get in the habit. Given his background, his suggestions are geared toward screenwriting, but the essential principles are useful across genres.

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Maybe you don’t think of yourself as a writer or creative. That’s fine, but humans are still wired to think in terms of stories. It’s how we understand the world, solve problems, and plan for the future.

Stories the world over are almost always about people with problems,” writes Jonathan Gottschall. They display “a deep pattern of heroes confronting trouble and struggling to overcome.” So a possible formula for a story = character(s) + predicament(s) + attempted extrication(s). This pattern transmits social rules and norms, describing what counts as violations and approved reactions. Stories offer “feelings we don’t have to pay [full cost] for.” They are simulated experiments in people-physics, freeing us from the limits of our own direct experience.

— It Is in Our Nature to Need Stories

What do you see when you look out the window? What stories might you tell about the couple across the street, or the rundown house on the next block, or the accident you just drove past?

It’s that simple, and that hard.

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Photo by Dom J on Pexels.com

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Some photos beg to be story prompts, don’t you think?

Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.

― John Muir


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After my post last week about Isaac Asimov’s ideas on, well, ideas, a friend sent me great link on creativity. It’s over at Kim Manley Ort’s blog and is a nice introduction to Twyla Tharp’s 2006 book, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life.

As one of America’s preeminent choreographers with more than half a century of creative experience, Tharp has a handle on how to channel the muse. The post introduces Tharp’s thoughts on creativity, how to call it, how to harness it and where to ride it when you do. Not all of her lessons may apply to you but most of it can be translated from person to person, and discipline to discipline. The fact that her chosen form of communication is dance does not mean that her advice is necessarily less relevant for those of us who write.

I found her thoughts insightful; I hope you do too.

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Oh, this is wonderful. I’ve just gone to an underground lot in China, a restaurant in India, and an Arctic outpost. Wherever the Secret Door takes you, I doubt you will be disappointed.

Thank you, magic internet!

The Secret Door

The Secret Door is presented by Safestyle UK

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