I’m Melanie Anne Phillips, owner of Storymind.com as well as the creator of StoryWeaver, Idea Spinner and the co-creator of Dramatica.
I’ve been teaching creative writing now for more that twenty-five years, and the best tip I have is both simple and the most effective:
Set aside a specific time to write. It doesn’t have to the the same clock-time every day, the same amount of time, or even every day at all.
But you need to schedule the time like you would an appointment with a friend.
And then, when that time comes, don’t sit in front of a blank page trying to come up with something to say. Rather, let your mind wander to favorite memories, favorite subjects, or even to problems, worries or fears.
Somewhere in that session, you’ll think of something so important or emotionally powerful to you that you find yourself thinking of things you want to say about it – actually composing sentences in your mind just to hear how they sound, just to feel how expressing that particular feeling or understanding affects what you are experiencing in your heart and mind.
Does it amplify it, diminish it, contextualize it or does it remain, still powerful, but unaltered by the words you think?
That’s when you write. Take those sentences and put them into your manuscript. They can be private thoughts shared by one character with another or a section of narrative in a first person novel. They can be the basis for a plot, a relationship, a personal journey, a theme: a message.
Never try to force the Muse to work on a story problem. Cut her free. By nature, she is full of boundless energy to explore any issue in which you find real interest, be it a positive draw or a negative from which you hope to escape.
Sure, we all have dreams of writing a great novel or script, and perhaps we will. But the odds go WAY down if you don’t write about what moves you personally.
Now here’s the rub – this is a real pisser for me personally… The kinds of stories I like to read are not the kinds of stories I’m very good at writing. Man, that gets stuck in my craw!
I want to write sci-fi-ish action stories of great adventure, incredible discovery and amazing tales of triumph over unbelievable odds! But every time I try it is all mechanical, stilted, or (worst of all) completely lame.
Yep, I’d like to be a pastry chef, but I’m good at making sauces. I’d like to be a chess champion, but I flub it all up, yet I can triumph in checkers or tic-fracking-tac-freaking-toe.
My private horror (don’t tell anybody): I want to write majestic,sweeping, raging fiction, but all I’m good at is this. Yes, this. Writing inspiring articles so others can write all the wonderful things I’d like to write. What manner of hell is this?
Well, I’ve come to terms with it. That’s why you’ll find literally HUNDREDS of articles on story structure and storytelling on Storymind.com.
I came to the conclusion I’d rather write what comes naturally than get perpetually stuck trying to write what I like to read. I’ve finally embraced the awful, yet sobering and even somehow calming notion that it is better to be a carefree pianist, bringing music into the world with little effort at all, than a continually struggling trombonist, blurting out a few stilted notes and never affecting anyone nor even finding satisfaction in my own work.
So I urge you all to set up that time where you are forced (by resolution) to do nothing. And from that nothing will rise your Muse like a Kraken of Creativity, snarling out its arms to embrace every shiny, beckoning or threatening notion within its horizon, consuming it, and spewing out prose of a grand and powerful ilk upon the world, upon yourself, upon your soul.
May God have mercy upon us all, for we are writers.
Now get Kraken in this new year, for God’s sake (and for your own)!
Melanie Anne Phillips