I need some help getting my mind in working order. In the past few months, any kind of motivation I may have had to write, edit or do anything has slowly slipped away. Do you ever feel like that, and if so what do you do to regain/maintain your mental energy? I have tried changing my diet, meditation and a few other things just in case my creative funk was related to some type of mental cloudiness or depression. The changes I’ve made have helped a bit, but I still feel as if my mind is sluggish and weighed down. Last week I started writing a new story and it felt great, but when I looked over it again I realized that it was a word for word copy of a story I had written two months ago. Right now it feels as if my mind is a backfiring engine churning out the same ideas again and again.
I am going to talk all of this over with my doctor just in case there’s some other psychical or mental issue that I am not thinking of, but it’ll be a while before I can get an appointment, so in the meantime I wanted to ask you guys for your opinions. What do you do in your daily lives that gives you the motivation and drive to continue towards your goals?
I’d really appreciate some help because I honestly don’t know what I’m doing right now.
Writing Exercise of the Day: Psychical Emotion
In this exercise what I want you to do is to write a short story with a character who is in the grips of an intense emotion, but do not directly mention the emotion. Instead, try to describe the emotion or rather its impact on your character by describing the psychical impact that emotion may have on their bodies. For example, instead of simply saying that your character was angry you could say something like, “Bob thundered around the room, his stomach in knots and his eyes glaring so intensely he seemed more like a ravenous panther thirsting for the prowl.”
I have never been that talented of a cook, so I am awed that there are people in the world who can take a few simple ingredients and transform them into delicious food. Food is a part if the life of every member of the human race. There may be some who are more interested in food than others, but we all need its nourishment and our characters are no different. It amazes me sometimes when I read a novel I get maybe 200 pages in and suddenly realize “huh, none of these characters has had anything to eat or drink the entire time…that cannot be healthy.”
When I smell waffles I remember warm family moments!!
If we want our characters to seem human then we must give expression to even their most primal of desires, food, and drink. The human body, depending on health, can survive for weeks without food, but only a few days without a drink. The need for food and drink is a biological imperative, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot use your character’s selection of meals as a way to say who they are. Is your character poor? Where did they grow up? Say your character lives away from home, what types of food do they crave when they become homesick? When I was away at school I proved my mom’s biscuits and gravy….yum.
In addition to your character’s selection of meal, you can also play around with their reactions to food/drink. Do they have particular feelings associated with the scent or tastes of a particular food? Are those good feelings? For example, whenever I smell or taste cinnamon buns I think of family Christmases so I feel warm and loved, but when I smell vinegar I have the urge to vomit. I became very ill while eating something with vinegar when I was a child and now 30 years later the scent still makes me feel queasy.
The scent of vinegar makes me feel ill, does your character have that type of reaction to anything?
The sense of smell is one of our most powerful memory triggers, the and scent is half the of taste so put together it is one their most simplistic tools you can use to add realism to your characters. For example, I had a character who grew up so poor that once a week dinner for his family consisted entirely of a scant bit of ground beef, and when he grew up the scent of beef cooking reminded him of the poverty of his youth. Use your descriptive powers not only to show how the food looks, but go deeper and describe how the sensations of smelling or eating the food make your character feel. As I mentioned before when I smell vinegar I immediately get the urge to vomit. Does your character have that type of reaction to any scents or tastes? Is that reaction due to a painful memory of some kind?
Homemade bread….*chorus of angels sings*
Even if you’re doing something like writing a fantasy or sci-fi novel and your characters aren’t human, you can still use their senses to add a level of realism or believability to them. It might make it easier for your audience to relate to your characters if you were to expand your descriptions of how they react to certain tastes or scents.
Exercise of the Day: The Antique Trunk
For this exercise, you will need to create a character who inherits an old trunk from an unknown relative. When they open the trunk they discover pictures of themselves from various times of their life. They begin to wonder who this relative was and why had they been stalking them? What else is in the box?
Writing is difficult, but starting your first draft can seem like the most daunting task of all!! After you get a concept in your mind and begin to develop your story it can feel like you are beginning a new adventure which is both exciting and scary. However, there are a few simple steps you can take to make the process easier on yourself.
1 Think Small:
Start small and build from there
When I first started writing I was so eager and excited that I tended to overdo everything. My love scenes were so maudlin they were almost laughable and my antagonists were so overdone they read like badly written fairy tale characters. When you start writing your story, go simple. In some cases when I am first drawing up the concepts of my stories I don’t even name the characters. I write the basic outline of the story with a few simple character ideas but I leave the big details for later. By keeping my story and characters small to start with it keeps me from running wild with my imagination. In the end, building my story bit by bit helps to make my finished products read like they developed naturally because I slowed down a built every aspect of my story from the ground up.
2 Don’t be afraid of filler
When writing your first draft, don’t be afraid of what I like to call “stand in phrases”. The last time I started a ten minute play I was attempting to write a joke but the only punchline I could think of to finish it off was “where’s my wandering parakeet” which is actually a quote from the film The Philadelphia Story. I knew that was not the line I actually wanted in my play, but at the time I was on such a role I knew that if I slowed down and actually tried to create my own original punchline at the moment I would lose my momentum. I highlighted the phrase in question and by the time I had gotten around to the second draft I had thought of a punchline so I could take out the stand in.
3.Use freewriting as a sort of meditation
It has been scientifically proven that meditation can help to improve focus. I decided to experiment to see if I could use the concept of meditation as a kind of writing exercise. When I was experiencing writer’s block I decided to take this concept for a test drive. I first used a few breathing techniques I had learned in a yoga class in order to achieve a sense of mental stillness. After that, I took out a sheet of paper and I wrote for five minutes. After the five minutes were up I was amazed. At the time I had been in a sort of creative slump, but by silencing my metal chatter I was better able to access that part of my mind.
There are probably thousands of methods you can use to make your drafting process move more smoothly but in truth, you just need to experiment and see what works for you.
The Exercise of the Day
Foor this exercise you need to imagine two things. First, you will need to create a character and second, you will need to imagine a mode of transportation. Does your character enjoy traveling on their vessel? Where are they going? Do they want to go wherever they are headed? What do they see? How does their emotional state alter their perception of their surroundings?