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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Keeping It Fresh

One of my biggest writing fears is that I will run out of writing ideas. In fact, it probably is THE biggest writing fear I have.

I often wonder if the reason I am such a night owl is because sleep makes me anxious about what I might lose (you can read my humorous thoughts about my writing/sleeping struggles here). What if I wake up in the morning, and all of my ideas are gone - poof, right out the window, never to return again. All of the time and energy spent getting to this point, wasted. And all I'll have to show for it is $7 for one short story. And in time, my poor kids will be stuck with a folder full of my useless ramblings that they would like to toss but doing so would weigh them down with an immense amount guilt.

Somewhere in the future, I imagine Brandilyn Collins's children explaining to their children, "Yes, children, your grandmother is a famous author. She has so many great ideas, she can't stop writing, and all forty of her books are still in print."

Then I imagine my kids talking to their kids, "Yes, children, your grandmother used to like to write. She made $7 for a story once, but she ran out of ideas when I was a kid. Her stories are in the bottom of a box somewhere in the back of the attic."

I know most of us will never achieve the kind of idea factory that Brandilyn Collins has, but how do we strive for something more than what we have? How do we reach something somewhere between $7 and 20+ novels (Brandilyn Collins is currently working on 21 and still has 19 in print - amazing!). How do we keep it fresh? How do we keep it flowing? How do we keep ourselves excited about our own writing?

It seems logical to me that if a story (fiction or nonfiction) doesn't excite the one who wrote it, the writer can't expect it to excite another reader. Are you excited by what you write? When I use the term "excited" what I mean is, does it touch on an emotion: fear, anger, sadness, humor, happiness, etc... ? And does it do so in a moving, unique, or extreme way?

What does excitement have to do with ideas? There is nothing better to fuel the idea engine than to be excited about what you are writing. Find what excites you, and write about it.

I am so afraid of running out of ideas that I stay involved in a number of writing activities to keep my thoughts fresh and flowing.

First is my local writer's group. It was here, about a year ago, that I regained a new exitement for writing. Our writer's group has a subgroup that meets to do creative writing exercises and another subgroup that meets to provide critique and be critiqued. We meet 2-3 times per month and I rarely miss a meeting, because the activities keep my ideas fresh. If you don't have a writer's group, consider starting one.

For my Christian Writer's Guild (CWG) peers, I love to participate in the monthly Armadillo writing contest at the Christian Writer's Forum. This forum is only open to CWG members and students, but I am sure there are similar forums for other writers. The thing I like most about this contest is that it keeps me writing, and it gives me ideas to write about. Each month, they provide a topic and contestants write up to 1,500 words (fiction or nonfiction) on the topic. Currently in my CWG lessons, I am writing articles. This contest allows me to feed my fiction addiction (my favorite thing to write), and I have a small collection of short stories that are being added to monthly, thanks to this contest.

Although I have not utilized the weekly writing contests at Faithwriters, this is another great contest. A topic is given here as well. The maximum word count is 750, and you submit into your specific skill category (I believe there are four options). If someone has experience with this contest, feel free to expand.

I also read, a lot. Read everything you can get your hands on because reading is a great idea generator. I don't know how many times I've been stuck on something I'm writing only to have it jogged loose by something I've just read. It can even be a single word. I once wrote an entire short story just from seeing the word "tragic." The only thing more powerful than reading is being an avid observer of real life.

Warning: By "real life" I do not mean reality television or television in any form, really. I truly think television and movies can have a reverse effect - leaving so little to the imagination that ideas have no room to grow. There are always exceptions, I realize, but as a general rule...

Finally, if you just need something to give you a little creative jolt while you are sitting at home, try these creative writing prompts. This web site has over 300 fun writing activities to get your ideas flowing.

How do you keep your idea factory crisp, polished, and producing? Let us know - your techniques may help the rest of us.


  1. sweetthang said...

    I used to try to "save" my good ideas for a time when I would be more prepared. Or maybe I was saving them for "the big one", lol. Now I am learning that an idea is best when it first comes to me. I have the passion to write about it. There are nuances in the original idea that will be gone if I wait until a better use for it to come up. This has resulted in giving me lots of little successes along the way. (I don't mean being published. I just mean the success of an idea well expressed.) I too, worry that all this writing in the now will use it up, but I'm trying to trust that as God keeps doing things in my life there will be a natural supply of material as a result. Good thoughts. Thanks for the tips.

  2. Warren Baldwin said...

    Good ideas for fresh writing ideas! My biggest one is to read, read, read. Another is to just watch people around me. They always provide fresh ideas. I agree with the point in the previous comment - write down an idea when it first comes to you. Even if you don't have time to develop it, the idea is down and not entrusted to "memory," which for me is a sure way of losing it! God post.

  3. Stephanie Faris said...

    I have a notebook and keep my writing ideas in the back. That way if someday I run out, I can just go to my trusty list. But I think writing breeds more writing. The more you're writing the more your brain churns to come up with more ideas, then you try to work them into the genre you're targeting at that time...

  4. warrenjc said...

    A writer is one who reads. I read about two dozen books a year. Maybe not much to a lot of people but a lot to me. I love to read. and do so every night before bed. Anywhere from (at least) 30 minutes a night to 2 hrs.

    I worry sometimes about running out of mat'l but mostly about finding time to write-period. I am going to school, remodeling a home (for son), trying to finish three nonfiction books, post to two blogs, and then there's laundry, cleaning, dishes. Other than that, I don't have much to do. (Sounds like a blog or article to me. (Got to go to write it.) LOL

    Keep writing Karen