Five Ways to Refresh Your Writing

Nothing kills creativity like being stuck in a writing rut. Circling around the same old tired topics make writing flat and uninspiring. And if you’re like me, you find yourself avoiding your writing time. The kitchen has to be cleaned. The dogs fed. Facebook checked. But there are five ways you can breath new life into your writing.

1.  Take an excursion to some new in your community.

Visiting somewhere new stimulates our senses. I recently went to an art fair in an
Atlanta neighborhood. The architecture of the homes was so different than the suburb where I live.

People hung art on their siding. The houses were painted wild and interesting colors. It made me think about the differences between someone who would live those homes and someone in the suburbs. I started to do little character sketches in my mind. I regretted not having my camera to capture what I saw.

2.  Look at old photos

Photographs are excellent writing prompts. But old photos elicit memories and images of time gone by. I came across on an old photograph of my grandparents’ house. It was taken before I was born. The neighborhood looked different, but the house was exactly the same. As I studied the picture, I was reminded of the generations that had grown up in and around that house. I remembered the warm summer evenings sitting on the porch, rocking back and forth on the glider.

I also found a picture of me as the flower girl in my aunt’s wedding. My mind drifted back to the days before smart phones and cable television. It made me want to write about that little girl’s world.

3.  Visit an antique store

There are so many interesting items in antiques stores. There have tons of jewelry, coins, furniture, household tools, dishes and clothing to spark your imagination.  You could write about how a particular item wound up in the shop or use as a prop in your story. The Secret Lives of Dresses is a novel about a woman who discovers each dress in her grandmother’s vintage dress shop has a special story.

4.  Eavesdrop

I had mixed emotions about adding this to the list. But to be honest, I have gotten some the best lines from things that I’ve overheard at the grocery store. Of course, restaurants are wonderful because of the interaction between people as they eat. Sometimes I pay more attention to what’s going on at other tables than my own. Some might call that nosy, but I call it research.  In fact, I wrote an entire short story from a conversation I heard while waiting at a restaurant bar for my girlfriends. I was so inspired that I woke up the next morning writing. It was exciting to have a fresh idea to work with.

5.  Change your perspective

We often write from our own perspective. I always look at the story or the issue through the eyes of a woman. However, sometimes I switch perspectives to get a better view of the story. It helps me to see the situation differently. I end up noticing things I wouldn’t have otherwise. I begin to understand what motivates people to do and think like they do. I wrote a story years ago about a woman who left her husband. One of the writing groups I shared it with said she was a complete bitch. I was so angry about their assessment. I ended up abandoning the story after several rejections. Recently, I rewrote the story from her husband’s perspective. Not only did it help me to get a more complete picture of the story, it also helped me to see why the other group thought she was a bitch.

There are a ton of other things you can do to refresh your writing, but I’m going to stop here.

How do you liven things up in your writing?

Writing Lessons Learned at Obedience Training

My new puppy, Maizy (as in Maize and Blue), is as cute as a button, but doesn’t listen. She’d be darn right ‘bad’ if it weren’t for the fact that she has learned a few things from our older dog.  So I signed her up for obedience training.

The first class of training was only for humans. An orientation they called it. I was more than a little disappointed.  I wanted to get her straight. Well, turns out she wasn’t the one who needed to be straightened out. The training and behavior manager at Atlanta Humane Society, Mailey McLaughlin, M.Ed, blew me a way with her humor and matter-of-fact way of explaining dog behavior. I learned a lot.

And surprisingly, the three objectives of obedience training are fundamental to the writing life.

  1. Build a relationship – Obedience training is the key to establishing a bond between you and your dog. You have to spend consistent time daily with your dog teaching her what you want. So it is with writing. When you write daily, you grow in your craft. It’s easier to face a blank screen. You begin to establish a bond with your muse and it learns that it can trust you to be there.  And once you have a strong relationship with your muse, the words flow.
  2. Reduce/remove confusion – Most of the behavior problems we experience with dogs happen because the dogs are confused about what is expected of them.  As their trainers we have to reduce or remove the confusion. We do this by knowing how to communicate with them. We also have to make sure that we are sending the correct message. This is key in writing. Writers need to know their audience, especially when you submit your work. We have to carefully manage our words and tone so that what we write says what we want it to say. It’s our job to remove any confusion so that our readers get the intended message.
  3. Have fun – Obedience training has to be fun for dogs so they are eager to learn. And as writers if we make writing fun, it will be a whole lot easier to do. Sometimes we write stuff that isn’t fun, but we can still enjoy the process. Bask in a well-placed word or a great sentence.  Take pleasure in those moments you pull away for the real world to play in the one you created on the screen.  Entertain yourself with your own cleverness.

Next week Maizy comes with me. We’ll learn sit, stay – also great training for writers.