Recently I wrote a blog post about Kitchen Nightmares, that ended up bearing a lot more material than I thought it would. Honestly, I thought that was going to be one post. It spanned into two and gave me ideas for two more blog posts. This is post one of two.
Sometimes writing works like that. A lot of times, actually. When you constantly ask your brain to create, it’ll start doing it on its own.
It’s never a bad idea to help it along, though. And this is where the reality of being a writer sets in. The physical and mental act of writing is not all you must do to be a writer. You must do things, every day, to till the soil of your mind so that it’s ready when you plant a seed.
I’m not suggesting that you go away from the world and live as a monk. Though there are days I’ve considered it. These are seven things I do all the time to encourage my mind to create new stories.
YouTube videos, and other media
Otherwise known as learning about the world around you. I watch YouTube videos about random stuff all the time. Matt Santoro is one of my favorites, which I’m sure you’ve noticed if you follow me on social media.
These videos have inspired many a scene in my work. Usually horror scenes. I learn a lot about strange historical facts, creepy ghost stories, frightening unsolved mysteries, and lots of other things.
I also watch tv, read magazines and listen to podcasts about random stuff. Anything I can find to learn new fascinating facts. Or, not actual facts per se, since I don’t really believe in ghosts. But it all goes into my brain as sort of a compost pile.
Freewriting or sketching and dream journals
Much of what I write every day is not meant for anyone but me. I free write, of course, and I journal. I’ve mentioned this several times. I also keep a dream journal and do sketches. Now, here’s what I mean by sketches. I might sit somewhere in public and write a backstory for the old man sitting next to me waiting for the doctor. I might write a poem, or jot down my thoughts about the line of people waiting to participate in a public lunch outside of a church.
Getting out of your routine
I like routines. They make some of the more boring parts of my life run on autopilot. I stick to the routines suggested by the Flylady, and my house is a lot cleaner for it.
That said, routines can be death to creativity. If you do the same thing every day, your brain’s not going to work as hard. You need your brain to keep active and frisky to come up with creative new stories.
I highly suggest investigating your neighborhood. I live in this tiny little town, and I still manage to find things to do. We have a local theater, a tiny museum for Asian art, and all sorts of Summer events downtown.
Even if you can’t do any of that, there are still new things you can do. Eat at a new restaurant, read something in a genre you don’t normally read. Try a weird lipstick color! (I started wearing gray lipstick recently. I quite like it, actually.)
Vacations and breaks
Soil gets tired after awhile. Perhaps you’ve heard of crop rotation, the practice of switching out what’s planted in a field so that the ground can give and take different nutrients.
We need to do the same to our brains. Go on vacation when you can, even if it’s just to a neighboring city. My family and I actually vacationed in Pittsburgh a few years ago. 10/10, would do that again because a week wasn’t long enough to do everything we wanted to do.
If you can’t take a whole vacation, I definitely suggest taking at least a day to either have a little adventure or do the exact opposite and goof off. Go to the local thing you always say you’re going to do but never actually do. Or, sleep in and then go get brunch. Even better, try to fit in one of each of these days a month.
Honestly, I suggest these things to everyone. Too often we live our lives working and taking care of our homes. But we aren’t here to just survive. We should love our lives.
I talk often about writing as a business. It’s easy to forget that while selling my stories is a business, creating them is not. Writers are artists, and none of us started this as a viable career move. We sometimes need time to just focus on the writing.
If you can, book yourself on a writing retreat. I’ve never gotten the chance to do this myself, but I have taken a day to focus solely on my writing alone. I was working on a rough draft at the time. I headed downtown alone, going first to a coffee shop and then to the library. I had lunch at my favorite little diner, writing while I ate. It was a whole day where I did exactly what I always want to do, write. While I can’t do this often, I recommend doing it when you can.
Finally, I suggest that you read everything you can. I spend a lot of time online reading everything from news sites to entertainment sites. I read most genres. I love reading, so this hardly a difficult thing. I’m imminently suspicious of a writer who isn’t obsessed with reading.
So what do you think? What do you do to till the soil of your mind? Let us know in the comments below.
Psst! Want a free book? Click here to get a free copy of Days and Other Stories right now!
Seven pieces of short and flash fiction, showcasing the days of seven very different people. You will find a busy librarian, a lonely man with a guitar and a woman who finds a dream crashing in her brain.