Friday, August 31, 2007

weekly writing coach: idea city

Anyone who spends time writing--not just novelists--eventually hears someone say, "Where do you get your ideas?" as if you have a warehouse of them, or commute through Idea City on your way to work. Just as often, the writer in question secretly wants to say, "I doooooon't KNOW!" So this week, make your own Idea City to drive through and prompt new thoughts:
-Go visual instead of verbal: While you can learn style, phrasing and construction by reading great writers, you may need visual stimulus to get your brain moving creatively. Betty Edwards' The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: A Course in Enhancing Creativity and Artistic Confidence combines art instruction and brain research in simple exercises that will get your mind moving. (And she explains why you get ideas while driving in the car or watching a movie.)
-Travel...a little: Change your commute, your walk across campus, the direction you take from the subway to your office. Take a stairwell instead of an elevator. Seek out the path with a view (see above). When your routine's too set, you may stop noticing details and surprises. Look for them, and think of analogies and comparisons you can use.
- Watch or do improvisation: The something-from-nothing school of comedy--especially in rapid-fire delivery, as on reruns of Whose Line Is It Anyway?--take away your internal editing function and turn your thinking high-speed. Try one of the several Whose Line? games with an office mate as a break today, and see whether that doesn't sharpen your thinking. At least you'll have a laugh...
Finally, check out your after-work activities. Full-time writers may want to avoid other language-laden pastimes, like foreign language classes, plays and reading. Take a run, join an art class, volunteer to give your eyes and mind a change of scene.

Buy The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: A Course in Enhancing Creativity and Artistic Confidence

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