My head gets overwhelmed at times with too much noise when I’m writing – when that happens, I know it’s time to put down my pen – or close my laptop – and go for a walk.
About a mile in, I’ll start to exercise my writer brain by playing my “Describe the Character” game. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember. What it does, is give you something else to focus on, while being a bit fun, easy – and if you’re lucky, you can actually develop the great beginnings of a character or scene out of the exercise. In my first book CANELA, this was how I figured out how to combine characters.
Here’s how to play: simply pick a random item in the area and then, without justifying or qualifying, describe it as thoroughly as possible. In this case, about a mile into my walk, I saw a shadowy figure approaching me…without staring too directly, I took in all that I could. Once I passed the person, I jotted down my thoughts in OneNote:
- Tall, black running tights, white stripes, three.
- Baseball cap, tight black shirt, pecs. Muscular.
- Runner. Walking. Hurt. Long legs. Strong arms.
- Smile, lots of teeth, white, capped. Bright blue eyes. Long lashes.
- Brown hair, white, corporate, executive, Tesla.
- Handsome, scruff, married, kids, forty-two.
- Friendly, smirk. Head nod. Kind. Neighborly.
- Deep. Fall. Cold. Confidence. Unafraid. Worthy.
- Swimmer. Parent. Having a good day anyway. Nice.
When I’m having a tough time writing I see it as an opportunity to change things up a bit. As I mentioned in a past post about writer’s block, I like to think of these moments as opportunities. It’s as if the universe is conspiring to have me try something else to get a different creative result. And I have to say, after doing this, I’m hardly ever disappointed. At the very least, it always gets rid of the noise.
I sometimes practice this at my desk as well. I can’t always just go for a walk, especially if it’s the dead of night, so in this case, there are other ways to exercise the writing jewels (my brain). I’ll close my eyes, take a breath and let it out and whatever lands in my eye-line when I open them, that’s what gets described. Here’s what I wrote in OneNote about an ink cartridge:
- Dirty. Complicated and expensive. Hate.
- White, black, a mess of sorts.
- Necessary. Important. Unavoidable, but useful.
- Clear. Colorful. Toxic. Technology – Techy. Easy, home use.
Another way to do this is to put on any random song and describe how you feel immediately after listening… In this case, I listened to Lizzo’s Good As Hell.
- Positive. Joyful with an attitude. Walking like a model. Freedom.
- Bopping. Swaying. Giggling. Laughing. Confident. Superior.
- Happy. Smiling. Advising. Powerful. Elegant. Class. Proper with a touch of street smarts.
- Beautiful. Fabulous. Building someone up. Feeling like you got more to do.
The point is, when you can, use tools available to exercise the creative juices. I know writers who use flash cards or just do free writing exercises. The more ways you can self-motivate your creativity and learn to “unstuck” yourself, the better! Now, with these three descriptive pieces of information, I can start writing a new scene or develop a character. At the very worst, I’ve had a little break and stopped the initial noise I had in my head. I can now get back to what I was working on. Win-win!
What tricks or tools do you use to keep yourself in that creative space?
As always, thanks for stopping by!