Story Sifting

Story Sifting: Creative Digging for Golden Ideas

By Joanne Rock

Writing can be a joy, but it’s also a draining endeavor. Remember to feed your senses between books or when you’re stuck in a story so that you bring more life to your pages. Take an artist’s holiday—even if it’s only a visit to a local mall to people watch—to give your Muse a boost. Here are a few other ideas to help maintain creativity over the long haul:

  • Engage the senses.
  • Listen to music. Play with styles of music to see how your creative output changes in response.
  • Fill your writing space with new aromas to invigorate your Muse. Search for a character’s signature scent.
  • Get moving. Sit, stand, walk around. Move to a new environment.
  • Play actor for a day and get into character by drawing on your own experiences. Focus on a moment in your past and remember the feelings, sights, and sounds.
  • Read a magazine or newspaper. Enjoy the crispness of succinct language while hunting for story ideas—a strange crime for a new suspense, an advice column that pinpoints an interesting relationship problem for a romance.
  • Write evocative opening lines that aren’t necessarily attached to a book you’re writing.
  • Develop a new title. Brainstorm ten possible titles. Make a list of words you like for the title and put them together in different ways like puzzle pieces.
  • Clean your office. De-cluttering your workspace can de-clutter your thoughts.
  • Light a candle while writing or change your lighting in another way. Try working more natural light into your office setting.
  • Write somewhere new. Sit outside. Write on the couch. Don’t want to invest in a laptop? Check out the lightweight Alphasmart that can go anywhere on a few batteries.
  • Watch TV. Turn off the volume and observe the gestures/body language.
  • Head to the cinema. Try to plot the movie ahead of the action on screen. What would you do differently?
  • E-mail a friend about your book. Solicit help or simply enjoy the process of writing about your story in a low-pressure narrative style.
  • Visit the library or call an expert. Take a research day to find out more about a topic relevant to your story.
  • Create a story notebook. Include your research notes. Design a pretty cover. Sketch out random scene ideas without worrying about linear story development.
  • Be a wordsmith. Use the dictionary. Pick a word and fit it into your chapter or brainstorm theme words to sprinkle over your story as a whole.
  • Read a favorite poem aloud to savor the language. Be inspired by new ways to combine phrases or see new ways to evoke mood through words.
  • Read craft books. Find new levels of understanding in works you may have read before.
  • Read outside the genre you write. Enjoy universal similarities in story arcs.
  • Interview your character. Ask personal questions. Wait for specific answers. Discover their secrets and fears. Don’t be afraid of revealing their flaws.
  • Try a vision quest or mental journey through your characters’ world. Meditate your way into the new environment and explore every inch.
  • Play journalist with your story and take “who, what, where” to the next level. What if? Why not? What changed? Investigate your characters’ past.
  • Build a frame for your story. Consider starting at the ending, or tell part of the story from an alternative character’s viewpoint.
  • Set achievable goals for yourself but don’t be afraid to put together a wish list of BIG goals, too. Celebrate each accomplishment.
  • Create a scrapbook of every achievement along the way in your writing career. Look at it when the well feels dry for a mental boost.
  • Post an affirmation above your workstation.
  • Post inspirational quotes above your computer or frame a page from a positive critique.
  • Indulge alternate artistic talents by coloring or painting your own book covers. The act of coloring/drawing/painting may speak to your Writer Muse. If not, you may have a lovely work of art to inspire you into making a book cover a reality.
  • Don’t forget to fake it til you make it– act successful and you’ll feel successful. See yourself achieving your goals and making progress. Visualization is a powerful tool.
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