3 Tools Every Writer Should Utilize

3toolsforeverywriter

 

After countless hours of writing letters, drafting my novel, and working on other projects, there are several tools I have found to be essential to the writing process. Other than my computer, here are my three favorite writing aids:

1 - Pen and Paper

It's probably pretty obvious that I am a big fan of pen and paper. And while some writers prefer to directly type all of their work into the computer, I have found that there's something organic that happens when I write my initial words out by hand. Thoughts and ideas that I didn't even know were inside start to come out. Sometimes my mind starts moving so quickly that I can't write fast enough to keep up; that's when I begin to consider typing.

2 - Digital Dictation

Sometimes when the words just don't come by hand, I talk out my ideas and hear what I want to say first. This the beauty of a dictation device. I find this especially helpful when I am running around town and just need to get my concepts logged.

With current technology, you can use digital dictation to record your thoughts then simply email the transcribed work to yourself. Most cell phones already have a digital dictaphone app already installed on their notes section. There are, however, a range of apps you can download for free or for minimal cost. (I currently have Dragon Dictation on my cell).

3 - Walks

The third writing aid I use is simply the act of taking walks. I get some of of my best writing done before I write anything down at all. I have also had major insight when I've been cycling or on the treadmill at the gym. In her book If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit, Brenda Ueland has a fantastic chapter with several pages detailing the close connection between physical exertion and good writing. My point: go take a walk.

I hope these are helpful ideas for your writing. Please comment below and share your favorite writing tools.

Fifty-Two Field Trips That Release Creativity

It seems that after encouraging you to take a creative field trip (read Why Adults Need Field Trips Too), it would be helpful to provide you with some specific ideas. Here are fifty-two activities, which gives you a weekly activity for an entire year of fun and creativity.

fifty-two field trips that release creativity

The Arts

 

  • Visit a museum.
  • Attend an orchestra/symphony performance.
  • Take a dance class.
  • Take a cooking class.
  • Listen to a jazz band.
  • Visit an art gallery.
  • Attend the ballet.

  • Take a trip to the zoo.
  • Swim at the pool or a nearby lake.
  • Go on a scavenger hunt. (Check out geocaching.com).
  • Attend a sporting event.
  • Sing karaoke.
  • Go to an arcade. Pay attention to the sounds and flashes, and to the other gamers.

Evoke The Senses
  • Take a yoga class.
  • Treat yourself to a relaxing facial. (Cosmetology schools are often an affordable option).
  • Find a restaurant that serves dinner in various courses. Enjoy each one, savoring the tastes and the atmosphere. (A tapas restaurant could be a good option).

The Local Scene.jpg
  • Stop by a local farmer's market.
  • Peruse a local bookstore.
  • Tour a local farm or vineyard.
  • Go to a high school or college theatrical production.
  • Walk through a cemetery, taking in the names, dates, and landscape.
  • Visit a pet store.
  • Join a drum circle.
  • Tour a nearby factory.
  • Frequent a grocery store known for high quality products and artistic packaging.
  • Peruse a local art store, noting the papers, paints, colors, and materials.
  • Go to a music store and try out the instruments.
  • Attend a comedy improvisation night.
  • Spend an afternoon at the library.
  • Find a Meetup group in your area that has an activity/topic that interests you. (Visit meetup.com for ideas).
  • Go to a rock climbing gym.
  • Attend a cross-cultural event in your city.
  • Visit a local game/hobby store and pick a new puzzle.
  • Have a progressive dinner at restaurants you've never tried. Appetizers at one, main course at another, and dessert at a third.
  • Visit a vintage thrift store.

 

 

 

 

 

  • Take a train ride.
  • Go on a road trip and stop at all the intriguing spots along the way.
  • Ride public transportation and observe the people around you.
  • Visit the nearest river or ocean. Look for rocks, shells, and the like.
  • Go on an overnight camping trip.

TheOutdoors
  • Take a bike ride.
  • Go hiking.
  • Play a round of golf.
  • Walk through a neighborhood known for its architecture and landscape.
  • Go horseback riding.
  • Have a picnic in a park, observing other people and their activities.
  • Go fishing.

FunatHome
  • Watch a movie, focusing on the soundtrack. (Alfred Hitchcock movies are a great pick).
  • Take a day of silence.
  • Play a role playing game with friends.
  • Host a costume party centered around a particular theme (i.e. Gatsby Style, Superheroes, the 70's, etc.).
  • Invite writers, musicians, actors, and painters to share their creations at an art night in your home.

I hope you experience a fresh burst of creativity and share your own field trip ideas with me in the comments below.

Enjoy, Heidi

Why Adults Need Field Trips Too

My dreaded nemesis known as writer's block recently paid me a visit. But rather than be defeated by it, I am choosing to reject the lie that there is no more creativity left in me. There is a natural ebb and flow to such things, and I am confident that a fresh burst is just around the corner.

With all that being said, there are times when we need inspiration, a change of scenery, if you will, in order to get our creative juices flowing. For this reason, I am a firm advocate of field trips.

When I think about field trips, I conjour up images from elementary school: sack lunches, chaperones, and a buddy for the day. Some of my best memories of school are of outings with classmates as we explored museums and farms and pumpkin patches.

Benefits of Field Trips

Why should adults take field trips? I can think of a few reasons:

  • Field trips provide us with creative inspiration.
  • Intentional outings remove us from the daily stress of life, which often blocks creativity.
  • We get to experience the creativity of others and of God.

Guidelines for Adult Field Trips

In my effort to embrace field trips, there are a few tips I've discovered:

  • Bring snacks -- There's nothing worse than getting the hangries (hungry and angry) on an outing.
  • Bring water -- While I have no scientific research to prove it, my creativity is stunted when I am dehydrated.
  • Bring a camera -- Even if you're not going to use your pictures, snapping shots of your outing will give you a visual prompt when you go to create.
  • Be intentional -- Pick an outing that will be stimulating to you. If you're feeling blocked in a particular area, pick an adventure that will stimulate that subject.

Simply put, field trips are fun, and sometimes, we just need to play. 

I hope you will take a creative adventure soon. If you need some ideas, check back tomorrow for my next post, Fifty-Two Field Trips That Release Creativity.

Enjoy, Heidi

What was your favorite field trip as a kid? I'd love to hear in the comments below.

How Reading Screenplays Enhances Creativity

Until Diablo Cody won an Oscar for writing Juno, I didn't really know anything about screenplays. I had read several stage plays before, like Death of a Salesman and A Raisin in the Sun. But once I realized there was this whole other world called screenwriting, I started snatching up every movie script I could find. I read the screenplays to movies like Slumdog Millionaire, Sense & Sensibility, and The Queen.

As I began to read screenplays, I began to think more visually. This is because a script only includes what can be seen or heard on film. No interior monologue, no feelings, no inner turmoil. If it can't be shot by the camera, it can't be in the script. This is because screenwriters show us the story rather than tell it. 

Eventually, I wrote a couple scripts of my own. During this process, I started paying attention to people's facial expressions and to body language. I noticed the trees and the wind and the pedestrians and the bicyclists. I studied architecture and paintings and animals and the blue sky. I began to see the world in a new way.

If you've never read a screenplay before, it's an excellent way to enhance your visual creativity. Even if you aren't an aspiring screenwriter, I'd encourage everyone to read one. Some of the benefits of reading scripts include the following:

  • An entire script can be read in an evening.
  • Screenplays show rather than tell stories.
  • Familiarity with screenplays helps us identify good film writing when we see it.

Next time you have a free evening, pick out one of your favorite movies and get the companion script. Follow along as you watch the movie and see how the writer communicated the story through visual prompts and dialogue. (Many screenplays can be downloaded for free at Daily Script). 

As you enter into the world of screenwriting, I hope you'll comment your thoughts and experiences below.  

-Heidi

What I've Learned From the Fifty Shades' Hype

Fifty SHades of grey Hype

Currently, I'm in the middle of doing research for a novel that addresses the sex trafficking issues in Portland, Oregon, where I live. Ironically, the erotic movie Fifty Shades of Grey is scheduled to release during this process.

I could spend the majority of this post relating the themes of the story and asking you to stay home from the movie. I could discuss how our culture's approach to sexuality contributes to domestic violence and sex trafficking. But rather than reiterate what others have thoroughly addressed (see the excellent Resources below), I'm compelled to ask myself:

What does the hype surrounding Fifty Shades of Grey teach me about myself, and what can I do about it?

What I've Learned

I'm Curious

I'll be honest - when the books first came out, part of me wanted to know what was in them. Thankfully, I heard a few excerpts and watched an interview with the author, which solidified my decision to decline. However, I have to admit that the desire to know things is a temptation. I have to take responsibility for what I have participated in just because my mind is easily drawn to the unknown.

I Battle Fear

In writing this post, I have felt a measure of fear. Fear of being misunderstood, fear of what people might think, fear of being viewed as intolerant. Because my voice might be contrary to the millions saying this story is just fantasy for consenting adults, I am tempted to remain silent and let the "professionals" discuss it.

But at the end of the day, it's okay for me to disagree. If I want others to be honest, then I have to be honest too. Granted, I could avoid this topic, but if I fearfully opt out of the conversation, I miss the opportunity for a respectful, healthy dialogue.

I can exercise my freedom of speech and say that, as a strong woman, I'm offended by any story that would manipulate me into thinking that graphic sexual entertainment is beneficial.

I Am Inconsistent

In this country, women have intense feelings about equality and independence. We advocate for homes without violence. We expect our husbands to be faithful. We see how pornography destroys marriages, and we insist that women be treated as more than sexual objects.

In spite of all this, millions of women have flocked to read this book. By substituting the word erotic, it suddenly doesn't seem so bad. (See Merriam-Webster's simple definition of pornography).

As a woman, this phenomenon forces me to look at the inconsistencies in my own life. When have I acted against my core beliefs so that something doesn't seem quite so bad?

What I Can Do

I Can Value Myself

I've worked with many women in crisis: abused women, women involved in the sex industry, and women facing unplanned pregnancy. Behind a mask of sexual freedom, my conversations with them would often reveal that they had little value for themselves. 

So what can I do to value women? One of the best things I can do is to value myself. This might be as simple as talking well about myself rather than constantly degrading my weight, my skills, my personality...When I value myself, then I am eager to express value for others.

I Can Value Men

Watching the Superbowl, I cringed as the Fifty Shades trailer and a graphic Victoria's Secret commercial graced the screen. It grieves me that my husband, my father, my brother-in-law, my nephew, and my friends can't watch a football game without being subjected to sexual images that exploit women.

While it seems that most of the criticism surrounding this Fifty Shades has focused on the way it degrades women, I'd like to propose that this story is just as offensive to men. Shadowed by fantasy elements, the message to men is that women want to be treated in a violent, controlling manner. How confusing and insulting it must be for good men to see millions of women enthralled with this violent expression dubbed as love.

One of the most loving things I can do for men is to proclaim that all the "tee-heeing" around this movie is a harmful masquerade. The emperor literally has no clothes on, and women need to say so.

I Can Turn Around

I've often been found guilty of falling into the lie, "Well, I've gone this far. I might as well go the rest of the way." In my life, this train of thought can be as subtle as:

  • I didn't exercise on Monday. I suppose I shouldn't bother on Tuesday either, since I already blew it this week.
  • I already ate half the tub of ice cream. Might as well finish it off.
  • I already wasted an hour of my day. I might as well waste the rest of the evening.

Millions who have read Fifty Shades may think seeing the movie is just part of the package deal. But this doesn't have to be the case; we aren't animals who can't control ourselves. Nobody has to see this movie.

Over the years, I've had to throw out magazines, movies, and books because I realized they weren't beneficial. Just because I have the freedom to do something doesn't mean I should, and there's no shame in turning back to the road less traveled.

I Can Create Out of Love

Some time back, I heard the author of Fifty Shades admit that she would be mortified if her kids were to read her work. This disconnect convinces me that anything I create needs to be something I'm comfortable with my parents reading or my nephew hearing. If I can't share my writing with those closest to me, then I probably shouldn't write it in the first place. Whatever I create should be a gift to my friends and family.

The Good News

This is a teachable moment for our society. As individuals, we have the ability to make our own choices, which also means we are free to choose the best path. Thanks for hearing my heart on this difficult topic. Whether you agree or disagree with my insight, I welcome your respectful interaction in the comments below. 

Be loved this Valentine's Day! - Heidi

Resources: 

Infinite Words

What if my words run out?  What if I have nothing left to say?  What if my creativity runs dry?

These questions often swirl around as I attempt to move forward. Recently, this happened as I began to write my three hundred and sixty-five letters (read my post 365 Letters to learn more). 

The first letter of 2015 was addressed to my husband Ben. Before I had even written the salutation, doubt bubbled to the surface. The fear that manifested was, "Do I have anything new to say to this man?" If I couldn't come up with anything new at this point in our relationship, what would happen in ten years? Twenty years? Thirty? What would I have to say to him then?

This train of thought brings about creative paralysis. As fear enters the equation, the very thing I dread happens. I freeze. I don't live.

If this life is humanity's grand opus, then I should fear the end and work to achieve maximum success before I die. 

But what if I changed my perspective? Rather than looking within myself for inspiration, what if I gazed up at the stars? What if I stared into the ocean or tried to count the sand on the shore?

What if I embraced the belief that God exists? And if God does exist, He must be infinite - infinite in time, thought, and creativity. A limited god would then, by definition, not be God.

What if I go a step farther and believe that human beings reflect the nature of the Creator? If I choose to be inspired by God, I have an infinite source of inspiration. 

If I consider the possibility that this life is merely a prelude to an eternal symphony, then I am free to create without fear of failure, without fear of a creative end. I would be COURAGEOUS. Creative paralysis would subside.

                                                                        

                                                                        

These are some of the thoughts I penned in the letter to my husband. The words came, and they will surely come again. As I gaze at the stars in the sky, I choose to believe in infinite possibilities.