Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Take an Idea, Leave an Idea

When I first decided to take writing from a hobby to a career, I quickly realized that the days of writing for my muse were gone. I no longer had the luxury of waiting for inspiration to hit. I had to write NOW! I had to write today, tomorrow and the next day. That was the only way to build my craft and my publishing credits. 
But staring at a blank page could be daunting. Even if I had the plot of a novel laid out, just getting the creative juices flowing was a chore every single day. Most writers experience this angst at some point and we turn to procrastination as the fix. How easy is it to ignore that blank page and surf your social media sites, watch videos on YouTube, play with the cat, read a book or find any other distraction so you don’t have to put down that first word?

Here’s a better solution: The Writing Job-jar.

After a few months of dithering I came up with a system. I called it my Nine O’clock Job-jar. I chose that time because my family was gone to work and school by that point and I’d had a few minutes to eat, putter and tidy up. Then I would sit an my computer and force myself to write for an hour—and not on my current work in progress. That’s the key. Instead of agonizing over my next chapter, I pulled a prompt from my job-jar and focussed only on that. I’d write without constrictions, revisions or planning. Some of those prompts later became stories that were published. Some were nothing more than exercises in dialogue or description, but none were wasted time. 
So where did I get my writing ideas? Like many writers, I have way more ideas than I’ll ever have time to turn into full-fledged stories. Whenever an idea popped into my head, I’d write it down and drop it in my job-jar. I also found ideas all around me. Newspapers are great source. I subscribe to News of the Weird for truly mind-boggling stories. And yes, that procrastination on Facebook can also provide some fodder for the imagination. 

Here are some ideas to get your job-jar going:

Choose two of your favorite fictional characters from different stories and write about them having dinner together.
  1. Write an interview with the main character/villain from your work-in-progress.
  2. Describe one afternoon in your main character’s childhood.
  3. Create a village square in a fantasy world.
  4. Continue the story of a fairytale like Cinderella (What happened after the wedding?)
  5. Have fun with extreme description. Describe an alien, a man drowning, a murder, a first kiss, etc

In the following weeks, I’ll throw out some writing job-jar ideas. Like the old 'take a penny, leave a penny,' take what you like and leave a comment with a writing prompt of your own.

This week’s writing job-jar prompt:

World’s Creepiest Island: Watch this short video and write one of the following:
  • A description of the island
  • A night spent on the island to win a million-dollar contest
  • For history buffs, a description of workers bringing plague victims to the island.

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  1. I watched the video and that really is a creepy island. A psychic may not survive a visit. I am going to find an appropriate container and put some, maybe all, of these ideas inside.

    (Ask your antagonist what he or she thinks is going on.)
    (Make a list of things even your most evil character would never do. Then mix and match the Would Never Do with various character's names.)


  2. I forgot to add to the 2nd suggestion that you should write that character doing the Never Would...


  3. Thanks for adding to the jar, Sally. These are great ideas.
    BTW, I found that creepy video on weather.com when I was checking the forecast for the weekend. Just goes to show that ideas are everywhere!

  4. Absolutely terrific idea on the writing job jar. Very clever. Yikes creepy island! My comment may come in twice, sorry if it does!