Friday, July 18, 2008

Inspiration to Overcome Writer's Block - Part 1

People often ask me how I overcome writer's block. Working on several projects at one time helps, but when I'm looking for inspiration one of the best places to find it is to step away from the computer and go outdoors. In fact, that's where I found the idea for my creative writing book, Pumping Your Muse. (By the way, don't rush out at by it just yet. The revised edition should be out by the end of July).

Here's just a peek at the introduction from my book. It would never have come about if I didn't step outside to see that beautiful sunrise that inspired the one sentence rule. From that one idea, my imagination gave birth to Pumping Your Muse and the two novels that the exercise drew out. So if you're looking for a way to overcome writer's block, try stepping outdoors and practicing the one sentence rule.


Write what you know. You'll find this recommendation echoed throughout literature on writing, but when it comes to fiction I wondered how 'what I know' pertains when creating a world that doesn't exist. Where do you find the inventive genius to build a world atom by atom and breathe life into it in such a way that the reader finds it entertaining and yet believable? How do writers use what they 'know' during this creative process?

Some writers naturally introduce minute particulars, offering tangible glimpses of the world in which their fictional characters live and breathe. The goal of Pumping Your Muse is to stretch your creativity beyond your norm by taking a daub of what you know and pushing your muse to carry it to new limits in a concise but descriptive manner. Challenging exercises reach deep into the recesses of your imagination forcing ideas in resourceful new directions of development. We'll take these creative bits and pieces gradually connecting them in sequence while painting verbal details with subtle brush strokes crafting a picture that engages the reader's senses.

I designed these exercises for myself because this process did not come quite so naturally. My character driven plots offered plenty of interaction between characters, but 'showed' little of the character's interaction with the world in which they lived. I'd walk them down the road to get from point A to point B while offering a detail or two, such as the position of the sun to provide a time of day or dust stirring around their feet. Yes, these details feed the reader information, but they paint an incomplete picture and generate questions. Are there clouds in the sky? What season of year is it? Is there a breeze or does the protagonist work up a sweat on a tranquil day? And dust ... why is there dust? Is the road paved? Narrow? Wide? Is drought a factor? Does the scene take place in the city or a rural area? The sad thing is I didn't know the answers to these questions. I only had a plot and a main character in mind. Creating the world to make the scene work with the plot, after the fact, produces work and increases the chance for 'bloopers' by fabricating a lack of continuity and believability.

I searched for a way to bring together world building and character development in a natural, organic manner. Much like God created Adam from the dust of the earth, I wanted characters forged within the world in which they existed instead of crafting a world to fit my characters. I desired to 'know' how to build a believable world no matter how unusual and searched for a way to give my muse a creative shove. The exercises introduced in this book started one day when I pushed away from the computer and went for a walk. Dawn brightened the sky. I marveled at the colors graduating from the horizon and considered how I would describe the scene in one sentence.

Why one sentence? Practice writing short condensed clips and it prepares you for the future. It trains you to see details once overlooked and to write what you want to say without excess verbiage. Much like adding colors to a painter's pallet, this mental gathering of descriptions builds a foundation of experience from which to draw. It becomes routine and part of what you know.


joni said...

thtegHi Donna,
I just found this blog!!!

How on earth did I miss it? I'm not stalking you (if that's what you're thinking) lol I just have to admit that your words I find are truly inspiring to me.

And that is BEAUTIFUL!

I'll keep peeking around! Great offerings, great links and I'm enjoying the visit.


Donna Sundblad said...

Hi Joni,

I'd say you may be one of my biggest blog fans. Thanks for your kind words. This photo was taken last week at the lake where I went fishing with my family. Isn't it awesome!