Freedom of Writing, inspiration, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op, writing prompt

A Writer’s Life

Where do your ideas come from?

Seriously, what sparks your ideas to create? From a blank page/screen flows a myriad of words, strung together in just the right way to evoke emotion of every kind. To stir the ability of every reader, to forget where they are and immerse themselves in imagination.

When I think about this, I really understand the power of language. Writing is a superpower, especially in the hands of a Master. Ok now I am humbled. I have a long uphill climb to reach that lofty peak. Will I make it? Who cares, the fun is in the journey … right?

So that journey. That’s where the ideas spark, bake, incubate, grow, die and flourish. (Not necessarily in that order either.) You hone your craft, realize your style, and find your voice. I wish it were so simple! Angst, doubt, and fear cloud reason. They insist you’re a hack. That tiny voice nagging in the background, you know the one; it tells you the story on the back of the cereal box is more brilliant than anything you write! (I haven’t read a cereal box in years.) Yet, you keep writing. Why?

Personally, if I don’t, I’ll have an aneurysm from the pressure of the squirrels multiplying in my head. Or a heart attack from bottling up my emotions. So I write. 

My oldest son messaged me the other day. “Mom, I had a four-day weekend. In my head I finally worked out what was wrong with my story, but I didn’t write a word. I’ll never make it as a writer. I’m too lazy.” Did I mention angst?

This made me think why writers don’t write. It’s not lazy. It’s working forty-plus hours a week at a job that has nothing to do with a writer’s life. It’s being surrounded by people who don’t write unless they must and people who don’t outwardly show creative curiosity. I told him I get it. When you write, you immerse yourself in that process. It’s difficult to get started when you know your life is going to interrupt that process multiple times.

Personally, it took nearly two years of full time writing for me to enter a space where I could immerse myself, yet keep a bead on the world around me. It took stepping out of the working world. It took distancing myself from the people who distract me from my purpose. It took surrounding myself in an environment conducive to unleashing my creativity. My son doesn’t have that luxury… yet. His time will come. Until then, it’s all fits and starts.

Yet, I know not every writer or creative requires this, or do they? I know experiences, travel, interaction with the world, produces the ideas. But the time spent typing the words (or handwriting) requires stretches of solitude. The immersion into the process. 

Definitely the writer’s life isn’t for everyone, but I’ll be damned if I go do something else ever again.

SLRandall, writer and artist
https://awriterwrites.org/
https://artistbyaccident.com/

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Freedom of Writing, inspiration, Stories, writing prompt

What an idea!

Photo by Tracy Lee, Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Some years ago, after rejecting an author’s short story for the Book a Break Anthology, I received a reply in which she acknowledged that a weakness in her story was the idea itself. In actual fact, her idea wasn’t bad; there followed a discussion in which we agreed that while a poor idea brilliantly executed will always be better than a brilliant idea poorly executed, it’s better yet to have a brilliant idea brilliantly executed.  

I’m not sure how or when an idea strikes me as brilliant enough to be developed. The more that development proceeds, it will at some point, inevitably, stop seeming brilliant and turn into a struggle to find the words that will do the original vision justice. For that to happen, though, it had to come through all the previous stages of development unscathed – which means it must have been brilliant enough in the first place, right?

I currently have 72 files in the Ideas folder on my laptop, but the number of actual ideas is much higher because most of them are in a single document. They might run to a couple of lines or a paragraph; often they’re just a few words. Those that emerge from this survival of the fittest are rewarded with a document file to themselves; eventually, they may even get a folder.

The folder stage is reserved for the elite. By that time the text may run from 3000 to 20000 words. I currently have 16 folders, but half of them are gathering the substantial amount of dust that lands on my keyboard. That still makes eight active ideas to keep an eye on, by which I mean that any article I spot related to that idea will be read, sorted into the folder, and may lead to an addition or amendment to the text. But that’s a matter of minutes; at any given time there’s really only one idea bubbling away at the front – the others gently simmer further back.

Whether any of these ideas is brilliant is obviously debatable. And the point remains that it isn’t having ideas that’s hard, it’s doing something decent with them. But brilliant or not, all ideas start with a little spark in the brain that either gathers strength or fizzles out. Putting them in my Ideas folder means that some at least have a chance of surviving, sometimes emerging many years later, like Brood X (though rather less numerous).

As to where they come from, the sources are multiple, but I’m currently drawn to the zaniness one regularly comes across browsing the news. A few examples:

French police say they are building a case against an international gang of toy thieves specialising in stealing Lego – and they have warned specialist shops and even parents to be aware of a global trade in the bricks.

A mafia fugitive has been caught in the Caribbean after appearing on YouTube cooking videos in which he hid his face but inadvertently showed his distinctive tattoos.

In the flesh, Jeanne Pouchain appears very much alive and well. Convincing the French authorities of this has proven another matter. After being declared dead by a court, Pouchain has spent three years trying to have herself officially resuscitated.

A Welsh man has issued a public call to help find two Irish men who helped him return home from Australia in 1965 by packing him up and mailing him in a crate.

Whether any of these will be developed remains to be seen. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jeanne Pouchain eventually makes it past the next couple of stages, reaching the point where the hard slog begins.

And you? How do you handle your ideas?

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show case, Writers Co-op, writing prompt

Go Ahead, Write It

by S.T. Ranscht

Photo credit: S.T. Ranscht

I don’t write quickly. Well, except for those weekly 500-word book reports for Honors English in twelfth grade. I churned out each of those A-graded babies in 30 minutes or less before class — In ink. On college ruled notebook paper — while hiding in the cafeteria where my friends never thought to look for me. But since then? I’ve written slowly, deliberately, editing as I go, and editing again before I start writing anew when I return to any WIP. And then I continue to edit.

Now I’m heading up the Show Case Writing Prompt Challenge here, for the Writers Co-op. One prompt every two weeks, and I’ve committed to responding to every single one of them. Or maybe I should just be committed. But that’s a discussion for another time.

Writing for these prompts is a huge challenge for me because, contrary to what Carl Reed thinks, I’m not prolific, and I don’t have the luxury of time to write any of them.

  1. I still have a labor-intensive livelihood to attend to. (I’m plenty old enough to retire. I’m just not anywhere near plenty rich enough.)
  2. I spent many, many hours over a six month period last year re-writing the first part of a YA Sci-fi trilogy as a standalone with series potential so I could enter it in ScreenCraft’s Cinematic Book Competition last November. Obviously, this hasn’t impacted the time I’ve spent writing for Show Case this year, but it does demonstrate my inherent slowness as a writer. AND, it sets up a bit of a boast: Last week, ENHANCED made the cut to the quarterfinals. (Shout out to Victor Acquista, whose sci-fi novel SENTIENT also advanced to the quarterfinals!)
  3. I’m currently writing a full synopsis — ugh — in order to enter ENHANCED in another competition in March.
  4. I’m also working on a different novel I am completely in love with that I am determined to enter in this year’s ScreenCraft competition in the fall. It’s based on a short story I wrote three years ago, and I’m only on Chapter 4. Long way to go. Limited amount of time to get there.
  5. There’s a household to take care of. You know the drill: shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, et cetera.)
  6. And a dog.
  7. There are front and back yards screaming for attention. Get a yard guy, you suggest? See number 1 above.
  8. And there’s reading to be done. Lots of reading, and I don’t read for speed.

In other words, I’m a lot like you.

Here’s my pitch. We all have lives outside of Writers Co-op, and even outside of writing. But we also have a talented, thoughtful, caring community here that urges its members to push beyond whatever point they are at in their writing journey. We lift each other up with each interaction.

That’s been particularly clear around Show Case. The feedback is not only appreciative, but in many cases, critically helpful, prodding good writers to show flashes of brilliance. And maybe brilliant writers to show flashes of genius. Do you want a piece of that?

You can learn the prompt two weeks in advance, so you have some time to mull it over while you’re driving, shopping, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry or yard work, walking the dog or taking a shower. And by sharing these posts on other sites, I know for a fact that we have attracted some new readers, even though they haven’t submitted any of their own writing — yet. (I’m looking at you, Tre!)

Most of all, writing to these prompts is fun. It’s a chance to flesh out projects you’ve been working on for a while or take short, creative detours in directions you didn’t anticipate going. I never imagined that everyone would respond to every prompt, but I suspect each of you who has contributed to Show Case so far would agree that the exercise was stimulating and satisfying.

So shake off any hesitation you have and add your creative energy to Show Case. Start small or go big. You might unleash a new voice hiding in your brain. You might discover each piece you write feeds your growth as a writer. You might decide to compile all your contributions in a published anthology that brings you wealth and fame. But no matter what comes of your efforts, you won’t be sorry.

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