Many writers tend to write in solitude, behind closed doors. They do better without the distraction of the “real” world. I know I’m like this. I’m most productive when I’m alone in front of my computer with the curtains drawn and the TV off. No music, no background chatter, no people vying for my attention. I’m able to focus on the settings, characters, motivations, and actions in my novels in clear and immediate detail. And that’s exactly what I need to do to produce a quality story. But sometimes I need a break from my solitude (vacuuming the floor or fixing dinner or saying “Hi” to the UPS guy doesn’t count). A break- defined as an unusual “real” world experience- can inject energy and newness into our writing. Even simple experiences can heighten our perceptions:
Are you a life-long city-dweller? Visit a family farm. Always lived in the country? Grab a friend and wander the streets of the nearest big city.
Attend a country-western music concert if you’re a headbanger. If you prefer classical, try techno. Listen with a playful attitude and an open mind.
Plan ahead and visit an unfamiliar environment- the beach, a cave, the desert, a forest, the mountains . .
Eat at a restaurant which serves a cuisine you haven’t yet tried. Or try cooking an unfamilar dish yourself.
Commit to reading a novel in a genre you normally skip, and read it outdoors.
Whatever- just do it!
And let’s take it a step further. The next time you take a break, bring along a pen and notepad, a voice recorder, or a camcorder:
1. Sight- Look for something nobody else sees. Describe it in a way nobody else would.
2. Smell- Note the over-riding odors in your environment. Now note the underlying scent.
3. Sound- Pick a repetitive sound, close your eyes, clear your mind, and focus only on that sound. Keep focusing until your mind creates a vivid reaction. Describe the reaction.
4. Taste- The next time you’re hungry, drink a glass of water and go for a walk. On your walk, imagine preparing and eating your favorite food. Describe the taste. Then imagine preparing and eating your least favorite food. Describe the taste.
5. Touch- Choose 7 different inanimate objects along your walk (for example- tree, mulch, brick, etc.) As you pass each object, touch it and describe its personality.
Remember- simply reading about these exercises doesn’t count as actually doing the exercises.
So pick one- or all- and get out there and do it!
Then, if you’d like, share your experience below.
p.s. If you’d like to catch up on my first flash-fiction-or-other challenge, click . . . . . . . . . . . . . HERE.