Thursday, October 21, 2010
Through the Eyes of a Writer
Finding new ideas takes a honed skill. When the responsibility of maintaining a fast-paced deadline consumes your day, you learn to think, see, and react with the instincts of a writer. It's like Pavlov's dog. You adapt. You expect and behave with the notion that the world is fodder for your work, and the next story is right in front of you. Just thinking about a deadline makes your brain churn, your eyes wander, seeking for a fertile place to land.
If you wait until you sit at the keyboard to think about what to write, you confine yourself. Same position in the chair, same view of your desk, same sounds outside your window. Therefore, same old ideas. Yes, you're told to plant your butt in the chair and work. However, nothing says your head can't work when your butt is elsewhere.
I blog five days a week. I write two to four weekly editorials for my newsletters. I pen pieces for other publications, and each night I hover over my latest mystery chapter. A friend of my writing group marvels at my productivity, and I tell him it's not the magical gift he swears it is. Being able to pound out the first draft of a six-hundred-word piece in thirty minutes comes from years of deadlines and reacting to the subsequent feedback from readers.
I possess tangible experience that passive voice kills a message. I've rued the time a thrown together message received no accolades. I kicked myself when a rejection told me I should've edited one more time, slept on the piece one more night. And I've learned to continue writing in my head once I've flipped the lights off in my study.
Every stage, angle or twist in your life feeds the well. So does every newspaper headline, quirky Facebook comment, neighborhood mishap, or family flaw. Train yourself to see your surroundings as writing material. I've found excellent ideas for blogs, columns and piece via:
1. Headlines - Whether the headline was pro or against my opinion, I took it and ran, twisting it to be a lesson or educational moment.
2. Other blogs and articles - A single bullet in a how-to lesson on a blog, can spawn a blog of its own. I seek those AHA moments when three, four or five words stick in my head. Then I feed it and string it out into a piece of its own.
3. Life lessons - If someone enlightens or hurts me, I urgently seek a writing home for the lesson. Mistakes or accomplishments can explode a half dozen ideas from all sorts of angles. The neighbor's dog killed my chicken, and I found a lesson in it about writing. My son strikes out on a cross-country trek to find himself and I spin it into another writing piece.
Define the type of writer you are, and then put those glasses on and study your environment. Reach a point that someone can throw you a random topic, and you can spin it into a piece with your oh so unique voice you've finally groomed to respond to your command.