Religious guidelines for the preparation and consumption of foods are cool – especially when backed up by modern findings of dietary health. But there are always people who want to take it all too far. Consider a future world where the only food available is cabbage – but only if it is certified to have died a natural death.
Thankfully, no such restriction apply to writing. You can eat a wide and varied diet when it comes to what inspires you to write. Here are a few suggestions:
- Surroundings. There is an incredible variety of stuff around you. If you can’t get that concept, then try looking into ‘mindfulness’ to really make you aware of the stuff that’s available to flow into your ears, eyes and nostrils at every single second. The trick is to ease back on those obsessive thoughts about what you’re going to say to your partner when you get home or how crazy your boss is and … well, you get the idea. Once you have let go of your old thoughts, your mind automatically casts about for new things to obsess about – and that’s where your trusty notepad comes in. As soon as you notice something – jot it down along with a couple of key words about it, then let it go. Inevitably your attention will fall elsewhere. Jot that down too. You will find that you can fill a notebook pretty quickly with these observations. Guess what – this is life! And more – this is what people want to read about – so get to it – write about it. Make characters from your observations. Imagine what their problems are and what they will do about them. Then create plots about those problems and their solutions. Some people say that they don’t know what to write about, but they don’t really mean that – they mean that they don’t know which of the multitude of things around them to write about. They are paralysed by the choice. A tip for that – start at the top of your notepad list and work your way down. Nothing is too trivial that you can’t turn it into something interesting, with a little imagination. And that brings us on to:
- Imagination. Do you remember those hazy, crazy days of your youth when you liked nothing more than to lie on your back in the middle of a field, on a gorgeously hot, sunny day? Maybe you put your t-shirt over your face to block out the sun and then just examined the pieces of dust and fluff in your eyes imagining each one to be an amoeba or a spaceship or just a piece of dust with tiny, tiny creatures living their lives in the cracks and crevices. Did you imagine that they were building whole civilisations on a tiny lump of rock and then imagine that us human beans (I know) are doing just the same thing on our own beautiful little blue / green lump of rock – I know that I did. Were your little creatures given names and tasks? Were the small ones sent out to fetch a paper from the local newsagent and given a handful of change to get some sweeties? Was there a monster to fight (and conquer) on the way back? Did life seem so very beautiful and carefree back then? And yet was it so very unappreciated? What would you give to while the day away in the middle of a sunny field, miles away from judging eyes? Well, guess what – you still are that kid. Deep inside, under layers and layers of ‘should do this’ and ‘need to do that’, you are still that crazy, lazy child you’ve always been. That imagination is still in you. Those thoughts are still alive. You can still imagine and you can still be the one that travels to the stars and back in a single second. Release your bounds; transcend your limits; use your imagination. Remember, remember, remember. Which links us nicely to:
- Memory. No matter how old, or young you are, there is a vast store of events inside you. This pantry is stocked full of tasty treats and there is enough contained within you to make the most mouth-watering gourmet meals ever. Sure, it might need a little organisation to turn a jar of last year’s stag night into the smorgasbord of delight that is The Hangover (seriously – it made half a billion dollars at the box office from a budget of 35 million) but these things are totally doable with a little work. So, how do we liberate memories from their place in the backs of our minds? You could, of course, try tipping your head to one side and hopping up and down on one leg whilst simultaneously banging your hand on the uppermost ear, and although there are merits to this approach (I once found a dried pea that I’d been looking for since forever) there are better methods. Here are a few of them: remembering dreams when you wake up, using meditation to clear your mind, talking to friends and family (I know – radical – right!), revisiting places where you used to hang out, going through the garage or the attic, or simply sitting and daydreaming about the way things used to be. Once you pry open a corner of your memory you will find that the cover comes off quite easily and a multitude of events, places and people will fly out – some that you may not want. Don’t get too bogged down in the detail, just make notes on what you need, and then move on. The next time you want to use something from your memory, the process will be easier because everything gets stronger the more you use it – even memory. Well, apart from the stuff that you wear out I suppose. Vary your techniques. If something hurts – stop immediately.
And there you have it – a toolkit for adding ingredients to your writing. I hope you enjoyed reading this and that you will let me know if you found anything particularly useful. I would also love to know what you would add to this list.
I just made all that stuff up using the things around me and my memory as the main ingredients and my imagination to apply a splash of colour and taste. Oh, and I guess I applied a dash of sense-of-humour too.
Well, that’s it – bon appétit!