Do you ever think it’s weird how the most unexpected things can inspire you to write? Like, the most amazing idea of a character can strike you when you’re washing the dishes. Or, this epic new storyline forms in your head when you’re listening to a song or watching a movie whose genre is unrelated to anything that you would want to write about. I love how the writer’s mind works, and how inspiration can strike sometimes when we’re not even looking for it. It’s especially welcome when one has gone through a long spell of writer’s block or hasn’t had the mental energy to write for a few weeks.
I myself felt a relapse of intense inspiration while listening to some sadcore songs by Lana Del Rey. I normally listen to her music to unwind or to combat stress/anxiety. Then, one day, I played a few of her songs while cleaning my room and the sun was shining through my window. (For those of you that don’t know me as well… it’s rain that normally feeds my writing energy, not sunshine. I’ve often said that I loath too many sunny days in a row). I don’t know how this moment gave me the motivation to think of new characters and further the plot of my novel – which is bleak and dark in most scenes, but it somehow did. I’m not sure what this says about my psyche right now, but whatever. I’ll embrace the artistic-driven euphoria while it lasts.I am about half-way through that outline I said I would work on a couple of weeks ago, but it’s progress! There’s just a lot of details to work out, so I am not going to rush it right now.
I guess I’m just always fascinated by the workings of a human’s mind, especially a creative writer’s mind. It can go from orderly to chaotic to melancholic to joyous all within the span of a couple of days. I guess it’s what needed to create spell-binding tales…
How about you? Have you ever felt strongly inspired to write during an unexpected or strange moment?
By: Sara Kjeldsen
Wails travel through the walls of our home – if you could call it that. Crying comes from the streets, from my neighbour’s houses, and from my mother. She has not left her seat at the table for over two days, because she cannot stop looking at the picture of my older brother that used to rest on the wall.
My brother is dead now. Another drone hit him and his friend when they were on their way to school. Both of them lost their legs and bled to death before anyone could help them. In my dreams, I see the terror in his eyes during his final moments. He was a kind and beautiful boy who always wanted to be a doctor, yet we couldn’t even go to his burial site for fear of being targeted. Yes, they really do bomb our funerals.
And the crying. It will not end. I just want it to stop!
Being a girl on the verge of womanhood, my education is not a priority now that my mother is unable to perform her usual tasks around the house. Father died years ago and we have barely any money to support ourselves. I’ve missed two weeks of school already, and I do not know if I’ll ever be able to return. I am afraid of being given away to one of my uncle’s sons just as much as I am petrified of being blown apart by another explosion. This is hell.
I don’t understand why they are punishing us when are already repressed. Can they not speak with those that they consider militant? Would it be so difficult to send ambassadors and speak with the men that are oppressing us? I ask these questions and no one will answer them.
I miss my brother so much, but I need to be strong for my younger one, who is sleeping on the blanket next to mine. His thick black hair curls fall over one of his eyes as he dreams. I pray that no nightmares plague him. He is only five.
Mother’s sobs are gnawing at the final threads of my sanity. I cannot stay in the house any longer. I dress and open the window to climb outside. It is after dark and I breathe in the fresh air.
“Where are you going, Lanja?”
I sigh and look over my shoulder at my baby brother. He rubs his eyes and crawls out from under the covers. He makes me smile and for just one moment, I forget about the tragedy hovering in the air, encircling us.
Angry shouts from the outside drown out the weeping. We both jump.
I rush to the window and cover my mouth. Some of the men and boys are rushing through the street with machine guns.
“Please God… not again.”
My brother is crying now. He runs to my side and I take his arm.
“Foad, step away from the window. I’ll sing you a lullaby so you can go back to sleep. All right?”
He nods. I wipe away his little tears. I tuck him in and cover his ears as the roars of an oncoming plane grow louder until they shake the floor we are lying on. I kiss his forehead.
“I love you, my little toad,” I whisper.
I wrap my arms around his quivering body. I’m so scared, but I keep singing for him.
My mother’s scream rages from downstairs. Then, deafening noises agonize my ears as my arms are ripped away from Foad and I am flown into the air. I hit the wall. I can’t breathe. I’m burning, but I can’t scream.
And then death, mercy, sweeps in to claim me. Forever.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind – A visualization of the drone attacks in Pakistan.
Hello writers and readers! Today I am going to talk about my writing projects and then share an excerpt from my most recent novel in progress.
Well, I’m happy to say that my newest novel has reached the 46,000 word mark today. Part One flowed amazingly well, but things get quite complicated in Part Two after one country invades another and I want to introduce some more characters — The Kings and Queens, the anarchists working undercover, etc.
Considering that the story is inspired by my four grandparents, WWII, violence in the world today, and just my usually weird mind… I have a feeling that I am going to need to give in & start an outline for Part Two. Sometimes, I can get away with writing as I go, or at least I think I can. Maybe it’s all just a figment of my imagination that being a “pantster” works for me. Maybe the whole writing process would be much easier if I always just created an outline first.
I would realistically like to have the first draft complete by this summer. Let’s say by June. I’m just so excited about it because it will be the very first full length book that I have ever written! And I want it to be the best that it can be. If it takes five years to polish up, edit, re-edit, and re-write before publishing, then so be it! Also, I really need to think of a working title.
An excerpt from this story is at the end. Based on my Grandma Maylard’s character. Comments – whether they are criticisms or praises – are always welcome.
The Short Story
I completed a short story back in the spring that is very close to my heart. I thought it was in that “ready to go” stage, but my amazing beta reader showed me otherwise. Honestly, the most important people in your writing career are going to be your beta readers. He picked up that my supporting character seemed a little weak (A prop) and he also noticed a lot of plot holes in the story.
You see, with short stories you really can’t skimp on the complexity of the characters and all the details that make it worth being a short story. In my mind, all of the details are there, but sometimes I think I can be a little light with description and too heavy on the adverbs.
It’s funny how writing mistakes seem so blatant when someone else points them out, but before that you could have read over it another 25 times and you still wouldn’t see it. Alas, I am excited to get into the nitty gritty of that story in due time.
So, there will be a lot of editing and adding to it over the next few months as well. My goal is to have it polished, beta read, and edited by this summer.
Yes, I’m actually going to write a story about… *Awkward moment alert*… me! Of course, I’m not going to make it blatant that this book is an actual autobiography. Me and the characters will have slightly distorted names and the setting is going to be quite whimsical and fantastical, but it will indeed be based on my life. Half of my living moments are spent in fantasy worlds anyway, so I thought it would be fitting to write the story of my life set in a different realm. People that know me will likely be able to piece certain things together and figure most of it out.
I’ll be working at it here and there, whenever the inspiration strikes.
Helena climbed onto the fence that lined the road to watch the marching soldiers. The time had come for them to leave the safety of their training camp and sail for Nesi. Many were not much older than she was, yet they were in such a hurry to fight as though death could never touch them. She knew all too well that no one was safe from mortality’s kiss of betrayal.
Remembering a document of her father’s that she had read over a year ago about the superior weaponry and fighting tactics used by the Nesins, she felt guilty for pitying herself earlier. If she were a boy, she might have become a soldier in a couple of years rather than continue to work as a miner. She shuddered at the idea of running through a volley of arrows or trying to escape from an enemy much bigger and more skilled than she. Perhaps the mines were not so terrible, after all.
The line of fighters came to an end. She watched as the last of them disappeared into the forest. Perhaps never to be seen in their own country again.
If you’re a writer, you know all too well what writer’s block is. Though it doesn’t happen to me very often (I like to say that I am “perma-inspired”), it really sucks when it hits. There are so many reasons why you may have lost the inspiration and drive to write. The cause could be anything, but I wonder if it is better to think about how to work through this trial than determine what exactly is causing it. It’s essentially a psychological barrier, but it can be destroyed with the right type of outlook and thought process.
Think of writer’s block as a way to move past another obstacle. A challenge. Great things are never easy to complete or obtain. Just consider writer’s block as another step in the creative writing process.
1) Don’t Wait for Inspiration.
Yes, really. Inspiration is preferable, but writing is essential. Even if you’re feeling apathetic toward writing (Or maybe, toward everything at the moment) and you can’t picture yourself writing anytime in the near future, just sit down and start writing/typing. Let go of your thinking for a few minutes and allow yourself to focus on the blank page in front of you. If all else fails, start editing something you’ve already written and that may just pique your interest again.
2) Don’t Compare
Perhaps the source of your creativity melt down is that you feel insecure as a writer. Maybe you worry that you will never be as good as that writer who just sold 1 Million copies. You know what? It doesn’t matter. Write what you love, create stories that excite you so much that you lose track of time. Be your own person. Comparing yourself to other authors will cause stress and… likely writer’s block!
3) Listen to Inspiring Music
This is what gets me every time. I can’t tell you the number of instances where I thought I was too tired or too unfocused to write, but that Game of Thrones soundtrack sets my creative mind straight. There have been days where I didn’t expect to write at all, but instead finished a few pages. Find that soundtrack or playlist or song that gets you in the mood to write.
4) Forget About Quality
Just write the story down and allow your stream of consciousness to guide you. Forget about all of the technicalities and word choices. First drafts are for you to pour out that raw emotion and poetic plot you’ve wanted to write down for ages. Let is all out. Then worry about editing and fixing things on the second drafts. Remember: You can’t fix something if there is nothing to fix. Just write.
5) Go for a Walk
This is another thing that allows for those creative juices to flow. Seeing a sunset, walking under the stars, or going for a swing in the snow can clear your head so that you feel refreshed when you sit down to work on your novel.
6) Do Not Be Hard On Yourself
It can be easy to beat yourself up because you feel like you’re failing. Some writers start to think that they are not cut out for writing anymore when they experience longer or more frequent periods of writer’s block. Remind yourself of the pieces that you’ve written and enjoyed. It’s all right! This isn’t a disease. You will get through it. I have. Others have. And you will.
7) Write Something New
If the story you’ve been working away at doesn’t seem to interest you anymore, maybe it is time to set it aside for a later date when you can begin it again with fresh eyes. Start a new story, something you’ve wanted to be writing for ages, and see how it goes. Maybe a new book was what you were supposed to do all along.
Good writers read. All the time. Pick up a book from your favourite author and you’ll very likely start feeling the urge to start working on your own masterpiece. For many writers, reading a story is the ultimate key to unlocking their own creativity.
9) Invest in a new laptop
Practical and also overlooked. Is your computer running a little slow? Does it take 25 minutes just to start up and load MS Word? You may want to purchase a new one so that you can get started on writing quicker. For many busy people, one hour is all they can spare to write in a day.
Writers, how often have you experienced writer’s block? Is there anything you would like to add to this list? Tell me your thoughts.
(Sorry for the cheesy title.)
Well, there’s 9 days left in November, not including the just under two hours left of today, for the Mountain Time Zone. I had a couple of topics that I planned to write about, but then decided to focus on my work in progress first and then tackle the other two things later on, since they’re more in depth.
I did not participate in NaNo this year, but it’s been quite a productive month so far for my fantasy novel, based somewhat on the younger lives of my four grandparents. I’ve broken the 100 page mark today, and I am still only in “Part One”. Oh my gosh, I think that this may be my very first full-length novel! I really hope that it makes it to at least 250 pages.
So, for the remaining week or so, I want to write at least 50 more pages. The writing has just been flowing and every time I sit down to write, I add at least another five pages per sitting.
I think it’s working because I’ve found that balance of where to write and what music to listen to in order to be inspired. There’s something about that Game of Thrones soundtrack that draws me into the fantasy realm and I’m just totally in love with the world and characters of my story, especially when I listen to the epic melodies. I can almost smell the musty dirt on the streets, and hear the distant battle drums of the invading army about to raid a helpless village.
Or, maybe it’s because the main characters are based on my grandparents. It’s interesting how you feel when your characters are inspired by real people who matter very much to you.
I still think it has a lot to do with sticking with a certain theme or ritual in order to make the most of writing time. For this book, I have no outline. Being a “pantster” seems to be working just fine so I’ll forgo any strict planning and let the story flow.
So, I suppose that is all I need to say for now. Because I’m so happy about this book, I think I’ll add a little excerpt too. I hope you enjoy it! This character is based on my Grandma Kjeldsen. You can see my classic theme of girls trying to dodge their fate of early marriage here.
Agnitia strummed the strings of her fiddle as she stared out the window. A clear sky told her that it would be a wonderful day to go fishing with Frenz.
“Are you going to play that instrument or just toy with it all afternoon?” her mother muttered.
The woman was on both hands and knees, scrubbing the floor. Guilt swept over Agnitia and she stood.
“Do you need help with anything?”
Her mother stopped working for a moment to stare at her. “Is this my daughter speaking?”
“I could help Papa feed the animals.”
With an eye roll, her mother stood. “Go. I am nearly finished.”
Grinning, Agnitia rushed to the door.
She did not like the serious tone of her mother’s voice.
“Food will be scarce again this year. Your father and I are grateful for your help, but…”
“Please don’t say it, Mother.”
She watched her mother’s tired face grow cold. “You are nearly an adult now. I was married at fifteen.”
“Stop the ugly face. I love your father very much.”
“I know that you do.”
She did not want to hurt her mother, but she had to fight for her dreams. No one else would.
“You want me to marry that old farmer, don’t you? You and father always speak favourably of him at the table.”
“He is not old.”
“I could never love a man who is nearly my father’s age.”
“You might not have a choice if your father’s crop yields less than it did last year.”
Agnitia’s limbs trembled in anger. Not only at her own peril, but at the terrible fact that her parents were subject to nature’s cruel whims. They were good, hardworking people, but that did not ensure that they would reap what they deserved.
“I don’t need to eat so much, Mother.”
“I cannot watch you go hungry for another winter.”
It was true, they had all become much too thin since the famine, which was followed by an overabundance of insects that ravaged their crops. But Agnitia had grown used to not eating very often, and she still had enough energy to go exploring with Frenz.
There we have it.
“You are an optimistic, nice girl. Where does all this dark stuff come from?” said a co-worker of mine four years ago, after I told him about the sort of things I write about.
Some of my stories wouldn’t be described as pure horror, but all of them contain significant elements of it within them. So, what does make people want to write books that contain graphic and horrific content? It’s probably not what you think.
I am speaking for myself. Maybe other writers will disagree, but this is how I feel about writing horror.
Horror’s sole purpose is not, or should not, be to simply scare the hell out of people. Good horror writing’s intent should be to send a message, to make people think. To use the negative events to set ideas to flight.
There will always be the torture porn and the mindless “Scare them. Kill them. The End!” stuff, but obviously there is not a lot of craft in that. Imagination? Yes. Skill? Not really.
Like any other book genre, a well-written horror story should contain fleshed-out, complex characters (That you will actually care about when they, um, die, or when they suffer from some other terrible outcome) and a well thought out plot (Or, at least a sensible one!). It also needs a unique idea to set it apart from all of the other horror books that have been written in times past.
I’m not going to say that writers who partake in the art of horror writing don’t have messed up, even twisted imaginations (Because we actually do). Perhaps a concept formed in a writer’s mind as a result of some tragic experience, or from reading or hearing about one. Other times, a writer will look inside of themselves and write out some of their worst fears. All of us are afraid of something, and sometimes what we think are irrational or strange fears, turn out to be more widely regarded as scary than we thought.
Writers, if you want to pen a truly terrifying tale, you’re going to have to dig deep into your own psyche to explore your own anxieties and those nightmares that you’ve tried to forget. Writing always needs to be honest, from the heart. Otherwise, the story will seem forced. Forced is boring. And peoples’ attention spans are short enough as it is.
A lot of my stories contain horror elements in them in large part because the antidote to horror is, essentially, hope. I just love the satisfaction of a character overcoming obstacles of a more dramatic scale. I don’t receive much enjoyment from writing romance, because it’s just too simple and linear for me. I want the character to experience a lot of hardships, go on a journey or two, and then develop as an individual. If there is a hint of romance in my books, it will be destroyed at some point.
Sometimes, characters will need to die in order for a point to come across or for the message to really settle into the reader’s heart. While many things do work out for the better in life, sometimes things do not get better. They get worse. Why do they get worse? Because of “evil” in the world – the diseases, the corrupted world leaders, the warfare, the natural disasters, the rape culture, etc.
Horror asks the gripping question: Who will win – the evil forces or the main characters? Hope or fear? Violence or peace? And, why did they win?
Most of my more recent works have an anti-war or anti-violence theme. Ironically, one needs to show the terrible effects of pain, brutality, and lost lives in a story in order for the message to have a full impact. Show people what life in a third world country entails for a young girl. Emphasize the atrocities and their effects on those people who are subject to war crimes, human trafficking, starvation, cruelty… whatever it is!
Suzanne Collins did not write The Hunger Games, a dystopian novel, with the intent of glorifying violence. She showed the tragedy of teenagers forced to kill one another in a sick game of survival as a symbolism for today’s violence-accepting world.
Many genres have horror components in them. Fantasy, thrillers, dramas, etc. can contain their fair share of the nitty gritty reality in the world.
My opinion is that writing containing horror is an excellent way to tell a lesson or a truth. Often when I have something very bold to say, my writing inevitably channels into the realm of horror.
(Credit: Journey’s End By Jay Epperson) Well, it’s the last day of October. I won’t be participating in NaNoWriMo, but what I will do is focus on my current work in progress. It is a fantasy tale centered around four … Continue reading
I am not sure how well this topic will go over with everyone, but it’s an interesting one to be regardless. There is a point to this, I promise.
The media often romanticises mood disorders and mental illnesses of creative people. Have you not noticed how unsurprised you are when you hear that an artist or singer or writer has committed suicide or suffered from a drug overdose? Let’s face it: Writers and artists are often associated with the “misunderstood genius” image. Actually, such a description is often a reality for most of us, but that’s another topic for another day that will probably never appear on this blog, but you never know.
I have noticed just from personal observation that many creative people suffer from some sort of issue of the mind, be it depression or anxiety or even bipolar disorder (To name a few). One might initially assume that negative thoughts and feelings could hinder the writing process, but the opposite is true in most cases.
While psychologists cannot prove that there is a link between mental illness or mood disorders and creative writing, there are several theories and studies that are showing that such mind conditions allow for creativity to thrive.
I don’t know, maybe it is just me, but it makes total sense that there would be an intense need to express oneself because of experiencing mental hardships, no matter what those may be. When a person experiences a hardship, then they will want to work through it and often inspire others to do the same. Art is, after all, a challenge in itself. You overcome so many hurdles as you create, whether it is a story, a picture, a musical piece, or a sculpture. People with mood disorders are constantly facing uncomfortable feelings and situations as well.
Have you noticed that so many great literary works are done by people who are not particularly stable? Of course mentally stable people can create things, but do they have the same effect? Can the writings of someone who has never dealt with depression or other issues show as much raw emotion as one who has? The weight of flawed humanity just pours from the writings of people who have experienced challenges and difficulties.
Maybe you disagree. But ask yourself seriously, what would the world of art and writing be like in the absence of mental instability?
According to one psychiatrist named Arnold Ludwig, “There is no question that people in the creative arts have higher incidences of depression, mania, alcoholism, drug use, schizophrenic breaks and so forth.” His book The Price of Greatness, argues that creative professions who focused on rational thinking and social interaction — like architecture — see very low incidence of mental illness. Meanwhile, the creative fields that focused on more abstract expression — like visual art — see very high incidence of illness.
It isn’t a coincidence. Mentally unstable minds often give birth to creative thoughts, our much needed inspiration.
Ludwig then breaks his theory down further, by saying that among writers. the highest prevalence of mental illness is found in poets, then fiction writers. The non-fiction writers — such as editors and columnists — show the lowest rates of mental illness. Not surprising because the creative energy used to write reports is not anywhere close to that of writing a story. There are stable and unstable creative writers around, but we have to admit that the writings from a broken person often carry more meaning and life. It allows us to look into the areas of life that might not be so pretty, but it is part of life, and in a way, such hardships can show us how precious and special life really is.
Is that not what is so amazing about art, in particular, novels and short stories? A riveting tale can touch the soul and strengthen the will of the reader, and all of this came from a person with an “anti-social” melancholic type of life. Something prolific can be birthed from a troubled mind. And is that not what attracts us to stories anyway? The trouble and the process of conquering hardship?
Even more thought-provoking is this: When people undergoing certain mental conditions take medications, such as lithium used to balance out bipolar disorder, the creative process becomes hindered. I wonder if creative people are more sensitive by nature, and feel things more, because they want to and need to in order to create realistic worlds and characters for their books. When you think a lot and take notice of people and how they act, it can heavily affect how you feel.
Such an interesting thought to consider. I wrote this not to sensationalize how it is to be a writer, but to encourage those writers who do suffer from mental conditions or mood disorders. Chances are, you probably write better because of those symptoms.
Yet another reason to just embrace who you are… and keep writing.
There seems to be some pressure out there from literary agents, publishers, readers, and even other authors to stick with one genre. The reason is that it could possibly confuse or frustrate your book following if you publish a young … Continue reading
My imagination goes into overdrive when I soar back and forth on a swing. It is a catalyst for my inspiration. Not only is it relaxing and fun, but it feels like I am entering into another realm as I … Continue reading