After having told you everything about my personal non-method (if you missed it, you can find it here), I throw myself headlong into the thorny topic of the search for ideas for writing; but this time, I ask you to participate, to build a sort of collective article with me. Because in the ocean of ideas I still struggle to navigate: sometimes I run away without brakes, driven by the magnificent wind of inspiration, others run into a period of calm, and that ramshackle boat that is my writing runs aground in an area of shallow waters, from which I can’t get rid of.
So comments and points for reflection are welcome. Because in writing, as in life, there is always something to learn.
I tried everything to free myself from the swamp where writers get bogged down with ideas. I spent whole days staring at the ceiling or an immaculate sheet in search of inspiration (no, come on. Let’s say a minute or two. For me, I’m a hurried & frantic little girl, more than enough time). I started ironing, the activity that I hate the most in the world, hoping that it would help me to unlock the mind (in fact, it went like this. Read through and you will understand how I did it). In the most desperate cases, I persisted in repeating inside myself the mantra “I want an idea I want an idea I want an idea” (to no avail. Do not try it: this system, tried and tested for you, does not work).
Then, the turning point came. I tried to understand what was blocking me and I realized that, if I wanted to make the creative process less tiring, I had to roll up my sleeves: in this way, I gave myself a move and I compiled my own handbook to find ideas (which, by the way, looks like close to a handbook for learning to live well, because, in my opinion, one writes to the best of oneself only when one is really happy, so … wonder! With only one article you will have in hand a valid list to solve both problems) . It works, if not always at least often: following from time to time one of the points of the list, in moments of creative emptiness I managed to elaborate so many ideas that I struggle to write them all.
The secret is to learn to be free with method. Distracted but with a goal. Daydreamers, but at a certain point able to pull the strings of their thoughts and get to work. Because it would be nice to think that we have a whole life available, but we budding writers, if we want to go anywhere, we don’t have all this time. We cannot limit ourselves to dreaming: something we must also produce it, sooner or later.
I’m going to start with the list, don’t worry. But first of all, some premises are necessary: three essential rules.
Basic Rule n. 1: always carry a notebook with you. The most beautiful possible: black and without a design if you are rigorous, flowery and covered with doodles if you feel more eccentric. The important thing is that it is yours and yours alone, and that you always have it at hand. Prohibited to show it to mom, sister and aunt: on this note, you are free to write down all the ideas that could come to your mind. If you already know that mom will steal it to give you a sneak peek at your sketches of ideas, you can be sure that you will never feel free.
When an idea appears in your mind, scribble it off right away. If you give in to indolence and wait a minute too long, you risk losing it forever.
Basic Rule n. 2: you have to write every day. I don’t know how you are made (since I am a curious girl by nature, I would like to open a survey on this). If you are like me, you will tend to laziness: even if for just one day you do not turn on the PC, leave pen and notebook to soak in the bag, you sprawl on the sofa in front of the television and turn off your brain, you are fried. So, declare war on inertia and force yourself to come up with something every day, however ugly, sloppy, illegible it may be. As the appetite comes with eating, writing is written.
Basic Rule n. 3: once you start, don’t stop until you feel like you’ve written everything you had to say about the subject, be it a short story or an endless novel. I always keep several stories up and running at the same time: one day I work on one, the next one on another, depending on the inspiration. In this way, I always have a lot of material available to finish or rework when, in moments of exhaustion, the brain falls into a black hole and there is no way to get something out of it.
Well. Once the triad of Basic Rules has been stated, it is time for the decalogue.
So let’s start.
First suggestion (I know, I will surprise you): be sensual.
Focus on the effect of the breeze on your skin, when you walk by the sea in summer. If you enjoy a piece of chocolate (let it be known: not even the time to write the word and I got up to open the pantry. Good Pavlov was right), make sure you do it with due care, paying attention to every nuance of taste. Learn to distinguish one flower from another (roses, carnations, dahlias, tulips, hyacinths, and so on), one flavor from the other (bitter, sour, sweet, salty, etc.), the different shades of color (magenta, periwinkle, slate. Or blue stellar command. It exists, I swear it. And already it makes me want to write a story.
Why all this? First of all because you will be more relaxed and you will learn to enjoy life. And then because you will be a thousand times better off, when you want to write a story or a novel. Your writing will acquire precision and will be more suggestive. Not to mention, then, that you just need to sit at your desk, recall that beautiful walk in the high mountains, when you have stopped a step away from the cliff and you are enchanted to observe that breathtaking view, insert a couple of characters and you will be alright. You will have nothing else to do but to describe what you have heard / smelled / touched at a time when you felt really alive.
Read a lot. But just so much.
I hope there is some pious soul among you who loves to read. If so, I am happy and I feel less alone (although, sorry to tell you, we belong to an endangered species).
It might seem an obvious advice, for those who have the extravagant fixation of becoming a (good) writer, to read everything that has ever been published from the Stone Age onwards. Yet many try to turn into divers even before learning to swim; what can the result be, according to you? Simple: if by accident you do not break your neck in the impact with water, you struggle, you try to swim at the least worst, but certainly you do not flow away with an impeccable style. If you don’t read, writing will be much more difficult for you.
You have to become like the children who exchange figurines: enter the bookstore and say “hide it, hide it” every time you approach a shelf full of books. Above all, you don’t have to settle for a quick read (if you really can’t stand the suspense, and like me you get hives due to frustration every time you are forced to close a novel but die from the desire to continue, I authorize you to give a quick first reading to vent your knowledge anxiety, but then, I’m sorry, you’ll have to start from the beginning).
Pause, if not on every word, at least on every sentence. See within yourself what the author is writing. Ask yourself: “How would I have behaved, if I had been in the same situation as the character X? Would I have been braver? More cowardly? More instinctive? “. Appropriated yourself in some way of history: realize what are the twists and turns that made you tremble with enthusiasm, which descriptions seemed most appropriate to you. Then, transform the plot into something else, something new. Draw a different ending. Drop the protagonist into another environment, emphasize the features you liked best; with this procedure, in addition to having fun, you will train yourself to invent.
Believe me: careful reading will set in motion the gears of your brain. It will open doors within you that you didn’t even believe you had. It will look over panoramas you did not know.
In other words, it will stimulate you like no other activity in the world.
Do you like this first set of guidelines? Well!