Light Bulbs A’Plenty

Ideas, ideas everywhere, and too many thinks to think…

Writers are, by nature, creative people, and as such look at things a little differently. Take the everyday and drama it up a bit – add sequins, monsters in argyle, and gears and levers, and you have an inkling of what goes on in the head of a writer. It’s magical, and it’s exhilarating, and, at times, it’s exhausting.

One of the hardest things (and, arguably, the best things) about being a writer is the constant having of ideas – ideas for characters, ideas for plots, ideas for settings – and not knowing what to do with them.

Though there are *wizard* writers who have the ability to work on more than one project at a time, I am not one of them. (Seriously, it’s black magic, and I don’t have the right type of wand.) It takes all of my discipline and concentration (and so, so much coffee) to focus and finish a single project, there’s no way I can carry on multiples at the same time. So what’s a one-project-at-a-time-minded writer to do with all of her ideas that come at the most inopportune times, like while she’s in the middle of a current project?

Well, I certainly don’t want to forget the idea. I mean, I’ll need a starting point for whatever comes next, right? But neither do I want it to derail me from what I’m immediately trying to accomplish. (Writing writing writing oh, look, a shiny new adventure!) < This is not a good thing.

So, this is what works for me. And maybe it can work for you, too.

I have an “Ideas” notebook. This is – wait for it – a notebook filled with ideas. (Genius, I know.  Hold your applause, though, until the end.) I allow each idea one page. One. No more. I write *whatever* the idea is (plot, setting, character, object, etc.) at the top, and then I give myself the space of one page to write around that idea. The text on the page can be thoughts, questions, observations, subsequent ideas, whatever – it doesn’t matter. But when I get to the end of the page, that’s it. Then I have to put it down and go back to what I was working on. One page gives me enough space to develop the idea a little bit, and to give it some context, but not enough to really delve in and become immersed.

Why am I so mean to myself, you ask. Well, it’s because I know myself. And I know that I ❤ new projects, but I don’t ❤ abandoning WIPs. And if I allow myself to focus on a new idea before I finish the one I’m working on, chances are better than even money I won’t finish either one. So, in the interest of my precious story children, one page is all my new ideas get. Until it’s their turn to be the focus project.

Ideas are a writer’s blessing and curse. How do you handle those ideas that pop into your head and threaten to take over your writerly life?



WIP Wilderness

It’s dark.  It’s creepy.  It’s terrifying.  There are pitfalls around every bend, and gremlins lie in wait to attack when you hit a wall.  There are tears of frustration.  Sometimes you want to die.  But then, ah, then… other times, you see the sunlight peek through the shadows, and you know everything is going to be ok.

No one ever said being a writer was easy.  In fact, Ernest Hemingway said:

There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter & bleed.

As a writer, I can attest to the fact that sometimes (most definitely all the times) this is exactly what it feels like.  You sit down to write, and one of two things happens: either you write all the words, or you write none of the words.  So I end a writing session either exhausted, or discouraged.  Needless to say, this is not ideal. It’s not healthy to drain your tank dry so you have nothing left for tomorrow; neither is it healthy to admit defeat and give up. There must be a way to persist!


So, here you are, trying to make your way through Mordor the WIP Wilderness.  Many (way too many) writers make it halfway through, get discouraged, and give up.  I never want a fellow writer to get to that point.  So, how does one become a WIP Wilderness adventurer and navigator who laughs in the face of desolation and despair, and comes out victorious on the other side? Well.  I’ll be the first to say that I’m no expert.  However, I have picked up a few tricks along the way that may be of *some use* to *some of you*.  (No promises, though.) Here they are:

  1. Stay off the demon internet. If you’re anything like me, you’ll start out on Wikipedia with excellent intentions of learning all there is to know about the Orient Express, and six hours and thirty-seven link clicks later, you’ll find yourself learning all there is to know about Stevie Wonder’s glasses prescription.  And while Stevie Wonder is, indeed, worthy of research, it’s a pretty safe bet that he’s got absolutely nothing to do with the Orient Express.  So in six hours, you’ve made zero steps of progress on your WIP.
  2.   Don’t be intimidated by the blinking cursor.  You are the boss.  Make it move.  Make it type words.  Even if those words are crap.  You see, you can edit crap; you can’t edit nothing. Yes, writer’s block is a thing – but you don’t have to let it cripple you.  One thing I’ve found that works for me if I’m having a hard time getting words down is free association.  I start writing down random words that come to my mind when I think about my WIP.  Some of those words will inevitably lead to sentences and scene ideas.  Another thing I will try is asking questions about my WIP.  The answers will quite often help me solve problems, and put me back on my writing track.
  3. Don’t get discouraged if your plan changes.  I have two jobs, three kids, two dogs, and way too many horses.  I’m a busy girl.  So I guard my writing time with Anduril in one hand and Aegis in the other, and all who dare to venture near me during writing time do so at their peril. That said, things happen, and plans change.  Just roll with it.  If your hour’s worth of writing time turns into fifteen minutes, make the most of that fifteen minutes.  DO NOT JUST GIVE UP WRITING FOR THE DAY.  Use every minute you have at your disposal, even if all you accomplish is one sentence.  It’s one sentence you didn’t have written before.
  4. Keep your creative tank full.  I hear people say this all of the time.  But what does it actually mean??? Well, this is my interpretation.  Writers are artists of a sort. Art appreciates art, and all forms of art compliment each other.  So, as a self proclaimed writer-artist, I try to spend some time in the “art world”.  I read extensively, I listen to music of all sorts, I visit museums and galleries, I watch movies. You never know where inspiration will strike, so give yourself every opportunity to experience creative outlet.  Creativity begets inspiration, and vice-versa.
  5. Find a writing buddy (or two).  I used to think this was nonsense, that the only time a writer needed a pal was at edits time.  I was dead wrong. I naturally connected with two other writers, and we have formed a mini-group.  We meet twice a month, and share/critique work, have brainstorm sessions, and swap ideas.  I have never been so motivated/inspired to write. NEVER.  Having someone to hold me accountable, and to encourage me to stick with it, and just finish the project already has been the one thing missing from my writing. Bottom line is, you don’t have to fly solo all the time; find a wing man (or woman).

And though it doesn’t necessarily get a number, also coffee.

All methods don’t work for all people – that’s a fact.  But if you’re game to try new things, maybe one of these tips will work for you. And as you venture into the WIP Wilderness, know that you’re not alone.  Do you have any tips or suggestions that help you get through the WIP Wilderness?



Technology is (Sometimes) the Devil

So, for all of you out there thinking “this Inkblot Ideas chick is totally forgetful and unreliable – she keeps saying she’s gonna post blog updates, and it’s Tuesday night, and still nada”: fair point.  However, it’s not for lack of trying.

I’ve been swamped this week (yes, yes, I know it’s only Tuesday) at work, trying to finish up some big projects in anticipation of Fall (with a capital F, because I ❤ Fall so much), and it’s been sucking my time.  So, last night and tonight I have been attempting to write from home.  My Mac is not cooperating.  It performed a demon update, and now is running at turtle speed.  And I CAN’T TAKE IT! I want to stab my pen through the screen.  You hear that, Apple?  Your tech be junk.

It has taken me twenty agonizing minutes just to write this much.  So I’m just letting y’all know that I’m not dead in a ditch somewhere, but by tomorrow, my Mac may be.  Either that, or CNN is going to report that John Connor has been kidnapped.  Because I’m inclined to believe that Skynet has taken over my computer.  It makes about as much sense as anything, at this point.

Coffee Break: Ideas, Ideas Everywhere

No one else will write it for you.

I don’t know who said this first, but it’s one of the most true statements about writing I’ve ever come across.

Since I learned how to spell the most basic words, I’ve been a writer.  My elementary years produced stories about circuses, fairies, horses, and space pirates (which, interestingly enough, are all ideas worth revisiting as an adult – especially the space pirates).  As I grew, so did my ideas, my subject matter, and my story length.  It takes longer to finish a project than it used to (and finish you must, if you want agents/editors/publishers to look at your work), and it seems like at the absolute worst time possible (see: the dreaded demon middle of a WIP) a fantastic new idea hits out of the clear blue sky.  Well, perfect.  (Note: sarcasm.)

What’s a writer to do?

Dear writer, do not be distracted by said bright, shiny, new idea.  Write it down, of course, so this golden gift from the writing gods won’t be forgotten, but then put it down and back away.  It’s a trick.  Your brilliant subconscious is trying to avoid writing the middle of your story.  But… if you don’t write the middle, you’ll never finish.  And, what’s the first rule of Fight Club writing?  Finish the story!

I speak on this subject from a place of authority.  I am not too proud to admit that I am an idea-harlot.  I ❤ ideas.  I ❤ developing ideas.  I ❤ researching ideas.  What I do not ❤ is pledging all my time and energy to one idea, and committing to a long-term relationship with it.  Yes, I have commitment issues.  So, I find myself with multiple works-in-progress, and nothing finished.  As you can probably guess, this is problematic.  Because though I have the ability to finish a project, giving myself a product to shop around to agents and editors, I don’t have the discipline to finish a project, which makes me empty-handed.  And for a writer with publication aspirations, this is a terrible place to be.

So…  How to solve this problem of all problems.  In the above photo, you see what I call a Mind-Map.  It’s part of my planning process.  (I’m not going to take the time to explain the Mind-Map process – that’s a different post for a different day.)  Usually, this “planning” stage can go on indefinitely, until I decide to just dive in and start writing (I am a notorious pantster).  But that obviously doesn’t work for me.  This is how I’m trying to transform my writing process:

  1. Limited Research Time.  Because of who I am as a person, I could start researching ancient China and end up learning awesome things about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  Interesting? Yes.  Productive? Sadly, no.  Setting a time limit (hopefully) will keep me on track.
  2. Accountability PartnersOnes that aren’t afraid to tell me to get on with it.
  3. Actual Planning.  This is legit So. Hard.  BUT if it works, the pain will be worth it.  I need direction.
  4. Deadlines. When I was in university, I was that student – you know, the one who wrote her paper the night before it was due.  I tried – really – to write it ahead of time, but without a sense of dread, immediacy, anxiety, terror, horror (or all of the above) I found my work lacked that certain spark that pushed it over the edge from just ok to great.  So, YAY for deadlines!

All this to say: for those of you out there struggling – stay with it.  Stay focused.  Don’t be distracted by new ideas; be confident in your current project.  And, above all else, finish what you’re working on because no one’s going to do your work for you.