Writing Tip of the Week: What Actually Counts as “Writing”?

Did you write today?  What did you write today?  How many pages or words did you write today?  Sometimes, the thought of sitting down at the computer or laptop at home after 40 hours in front of a computer at work can be a difficult task.  You want to get outside, see people, do anything other than sit and stare at a screen – well, one where staring requires active thought and creativity.  

While the act of physical writing is an essential part of the writer’s life (especially if they plan to show their work to others), I often do a lot of the creative legwork in places other than in front of the computer.  I find that these activities open up my creativity channels and help me to brainstorm and connect ideas in a more productive manner.

Let’s talk about them!

Thinking

I often get hung up on the seeming finality and concrete nature of typing or writing an idea down; they seem to have more weight once they make it to the page.  This can prevent your ability to explore, add to, or remove concepts or ideas that don’t work in a fast-paced manner.

I like to actively think out my ideas for scenes, chapters, plot points, etc., and workshop them in my head for a while before I commit anything to paper.  I have found that this method allows me to swap out characters, change settings, create dialogue, and alter story points faster and more efficiently.

If something isn’t working, I can explore other options.  What about this?  What about that?  What if she went here instead of there?  What if he didn’t answer the phone?  Once I’ve worked things out, I’m more prepared to write the idea down.  Depending on how I fleshed out the idea, I will either write it in bullet point or paragraph form.

I do this on the couch, watching YouTube videos, cleaning, or doing other mundane activities.  Sometimes giving your creative brain free reign is a great way to solve a complex story problem.

Sleeping

Sometimes clichés deliver solid advice, and “Sleep on it” is definitely one that can result in many creative epiphanies.  Often, we are distracted throughout the day with dozens of other projects, chores, and activities that we don’t have the time to focus on our story.  

Once I’m in bed, ready to drift off, I will start to think of the story problem or issue that I’m having.  The crazy thing is that the subconscious often can find a way to resolve the issue while you sleep, resulting in you waking up with the answer to your story problem.  Does it always work?  No.  But when you do have that moment when you wake up, and the story dots all connect, it’s a great feeling.

Exercising

Walking.  Running.  Swimming.  Any form of physical exertion can help you get out of your head and allow your brain to do what it does best: solve problems.  I’ve been on a walk on a break at work and develop story ideas or story solutions.  I’ve been on the treadmill at the gym and worked out big story sequences.  

It’s amazing how even ten minutes of walking can clear your head and let the creativity flow.

Motivating Yourself

Yes, crafting a narrative and creating compelling characters and dialogue takes time and effort.  But it is work that should be fun and get you excited about the story you want to tell.  If you dread working on your story, all the thinking, sleeping, and exercise aren’t going to get you very far (although you might have solved other problems, be well-rested and in good shape).  

You are the only person who can get yourself excited and motivated to work on your novel, screenplay, or play.  If you can’t find the motivation, ask yourself why.  Ask yourself what’s missing from the project that would get me excited and motivated to get it done.  

The key is to find an aspect of the story you love and want to explore and express to audiences and use that energy and motivation to create your fictional world and its characters.

Final Thoughts

Creative people are always creating.  No matter where creatives are, stories, scenes, characters, and dialogue flow in and out of their brains rapidly.  A legal pad and pen or a computer and word processing program don’t make you a writer; they are just tools to help finish the job.

By taking steps through thinking, sleeping, exercising, and motivating yourself to open up the creative reaches of your mind, when you do commit your ideas to paper, they will be more impactful to you and the reader.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

A Message to All “Aspiring” Creative People

If you’ve ever seen an interview with a creative person that has a Q&A session at the end, there’s usually a person who asks a question like this: “I’m an aspiring author.  What advice would you give to someone like me?” If I were the person being asked this question, my response would be: “Are you currently writing?”  If they answered yes, then I would reply: “Then you’re not aspiring to be a writer, you ARE a writer.”  Seems simple enough.

And it really is.

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of ASPIRE is “to seek to attain or accomplish a particular goal,” which means that if you are writing in any capacity in the genre or medium you desire to write in, you are no longer aspiring to do so.  Now, if you aspire to be a published author, or aspire to have one of your screenplays produced, that’s a different thing entirely.

And that’s where setting goals comes into play.  

We are living in a golden age of independent media content production.  No longer do we have to sit idly by and merely hope to have something published or produced.  We can do it ourselves!  Podcasts, self-publishing, blogs, YouTube, Vimeo, and dozens of other outlets allow creative types like us to make our dreams a reality without having to wade through rejection letters, unreturned phone calls, and the dreaded silent “no.”  

Don’t just ASPIRE to do it.  Do it! You want to get your book out there? There are ways to make it happen on your own.  Want to be on the radio?  Do a podcast and get it out there for others to listen to and enjoy.  Like writing and directing films?  YouTube can give you a platform and an audience without having to spend hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars.  

Every person reading this needs to know that we have the power to not just ASPIRE to do things. No, we can do them and then INSPIRE others to get their creativity out for the world to see.  

In a world that can be so mired in cynicism and negativity, it’s time for all creative people to bring their positivity and influence out in the open to help make the world a better place.

Let’s all move beyond aspiring to inspiring and motivate yourself and others to be agents of positive creativity!

Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!