Occasionally you come across posts from people who are struggling to write, either because they say they can’t find a subject, or because they are waiting for ‘the Muse’ / inspiration to hit them. But in a way, writing is no different from almost any other endeavour.
When once teased about how much time he spent practicing, Gary Player famously said “the more I practice, the luckier I get”. Why should writing be any different? Surely the more you write, the ‘better’ writer you become. You iron out those slices and hooks, develop the controlled fade, the perfectly lagged putt, the smooth swing etc.
You get the point.
So we really need to be writing as much as possible. And as for inspiration… How do you know when it’s going to strike? Wouldn’t it be better if it did so while you were writing? And isn’t it logical that when you’re ‘in process’ the stimulation is more likely to come?
You might argue that writing – being in the moment – is more important than exactly what you write, because who knows what will come in ten or twenty or a hundred words time? Isn’t that the most exciting thing?!
So, some tips; things you could think of using as prompts, drills, exercises.
Lists of things can be surprisingly fruitful. Choose relatively short and finite lists – and avoid using the alphabet; 26 ‘things’ makes for too long a list! Also apply a rule for the writing. Lists can be good exercises to stretch you.
For example, the colours of the rainbow. Write some short fiction where the first word (the ‘rule) is a colour of the rainbow: Red, Orange etc. Sounds limiting? Just remember, at least three of the colours could be someone’s name or nickname.
Or the four seasons; the 10 commandments; the graces / virtues / deadly sins. Poetry or prose. What’s not to like?!
We’re surrounded by history! Pick something from your own past to write about, or someone in your family. And don’t think you have to be true to history. Imagine what might have happened if things had turned out differently.
Or take an event – such as the election of a new UK Prime Minister – and write about it from their perspective, or that of one of the losers. Again, it can be pure fantasy. Have fun!
In theory – as long as you are conscious(!) – you can find something to write about in any situation in which you find yourself. Even if it seems unlikely. [A test: write a short piece of fiction where the character is watching paint dry… see what you end up with!]
Sit in a cafe, on a bus or a train, and observe the people you see. Invent the characters hiding behind their physical form, who they are, what they do, the situation they find themselves in. This is a great one for letting your imagination run away with itself – and it can work for poetry and prose too.
One day not long ago I started with an observation at a railway station, and nine months later had a collection of short stories! And all because of that one innocent unplanned catalyst.
A word of warning. Don’t get sucked in. It can be all too easy to follow a formula or a prompt because it puts words on a page; but if that’s all you do, you can end up repeating the same thing over and over again. And when that happens the danger is that quality falls and you start turning out dross, a pastiche for writing. You start to get lazy, formulaic. There’s a lot of that about; it’s easy enough to find.
Write, and write, and write: but vary it – and know when to stop, because sometimes you have to!