One of the old adages about writing is that it is the art of firmly attaching your butt to a seat. But once you’re there it is still sometimes not enough. Writing is not easy. You might find that you write a really good story one week and then struggle to piece a sentence together the very next week. I thought about my inconsistency when it comes to writing and discovered that there are some ways to remedy the situation. I am hardly a literary genius, but I find that you tend to develop a story much better when you…
1. Change your writing environment
Sometimes being a writer is like banging your head against a wall. Simple solution: take the wall away. Being in the same environment and seeing the same poster of Eva Mendes on the wall is not going to help you. Yeah, I said it. In fact, it may diminish your creativity. Take your laptop or even your pen and notepad and go to a coffee shop, or the park, or the beach, wherever.
The point is that you need to change the scenery.
My colleague and I always wrote in pretty much the same space until one evening we decided to go have supper at a restaurant and take the laptop with us. Granted it was a little louder than we’re used to, and the waiter stopping by to ask if everything was OK did mess with the flow on occasion. However, a briefly-disrupted flow is better than no flow at all. While writing is all about sitting firmly in a chair, the chair does not always need to be the exact same one.
If you have any problems coming up with places to go, use the characters in your story as motivation. If the protagonist is into art, go to a museum and write there. Go to the park if your villain likes to feed pigeons. That’s pretty weird, but he’s your villain so he can do whatever he wants. Although it’s not a necessity, I find that changing your setting makes it much easier to…
Improvisation is all about using what you’re given – the setting, the scenario, the props and even those around you. You need to feed on this and ultimately make it your own. Improvising while writing is very similar. There is a scene in Date Night where Tina Fey and Steve Carell make up back stories for the other patrons in the restaurant. While this is fun, it is also a way for you to use real people and play around with their situation.
“…being a writer is like banging your head against a wall. Simple solution: take the wall away.”
You might decide that because a woman stole a chip off her partner’s plate that she is on a diet, trying to lose weight to fit into her wedding dress, but is having trouble adjusting. Her fiancé has no problem with her weight but would really just like her to keep her hands off his plate because he does not believe in sharing food. And all of that stems from one chips being stolen off a plate. Single actions in a story can sometimes express so much about a character or their situation. My favourite example is that of Bruce Willis‘ in Unbreakable, who takes off his wedding ring as a very attractive woman is about to sit next to him on the train. Actions – single moments – can sometimes tell quite a story.
I was going to combine this improvisation technique with the final section of this article because of the similarities between the two, but I feel that it needs to be addressed separately. Next, and perhaps one of the more hilarious ways to spark your creativity is to…
3. Create on demand
Improvising is always good, but what really spurs on the improvisation is what I like to call the COD effect. Now before you start getting excited, let me just state that this has nothing to do with how playing Call of Duty can help improve your creativity. (Although that is quite interesting – let’s put a pin in that one). For the purpose of this article, COD refers to Create On Demand.
In screenwriting class, we learnt that sitting down and writing is vital. No matter what it is you’re writing: Just. Write. We did these Free-writing exercises where all you had to do for five minutes straight was write. If you couldn’t come up with anything to write then write about the fact that you can’t come up with anything to write. The aim of the exercise is to keep the pen moving. Because at the end of the five minutes, once you dig through all the garbage you wrote, there might just be a nugget of something great. A paragraph. A sentence. A word. Something you wrote might just spark an idea.
A unique twist on this old exercise was discovered when my colleague and I went to supper. Out of nowhere, he told me to make up a story – any story that comes to mind. “Don’t think about it. Just talk. I’ll type.” This was a proper ambush and I was not prepared at all. But this was ultimately the point of it all. Seeing his hands hovering over the keyboard like a stenographer, waiting for me to dictate, made it feel as if I was compelled to come up with something. And even though the story I came up with had some pretty ridiculous moments and I was laughing as I was pitching it off the top of my head, it had a couple of good ideas in it. When it was done, I had come up with a story, it was written down and we had a chat about it afterwards. These are the usual side-effects of COD.
OK, writing is not always the easiest thing in the world and writer’s block is a bitch. I get that. But remember that there are always things you can do to remedy the situation. In my opinion, the methods that I have mentioned in this article should help give you a fresh new perspective which is always needed when writing that amazing story of yours.
I hope you found this useful and if you have any tips or exercises to share with the rest of us, please do so in the comments section below. Also, be a stalker and follow us @btglifestyle and like us on Facebook – BTG Lifestyle. Now go write something!
About the author: Dean is a co-founding member of BTG Lifestyle, and an aspiring screenwriter and filmmaker who WILL be making waves in the world of film in the future. But for the moment, he is #AlmostFamous.