One of the most common questions I’m asked at events or on social media is where my ideas come from. I don’t have an Ideas Shop just down the road from where I live – but I do have an Ideas Factory. It’s this:
I listen to people talking and I think about what they say.
You might be disappointed by my ‘revelation’ but here’s how it works. If a person finds a situation remarkable enough to tell me about, then that’s an indication that there’s something worth exploring. ‘Remarkable’ is good.
Sometimes it can be a central idea. Over dinner, a friend told me about her holiday from hell. I laughed until I cried as she made it sound very funny but in amongst the extraordinary happenings was a story of a family in crisis, a woman who was acting bizarrely because she’d fallen violently in love with a…
Read this today. Thought it was good advice. Thought I should pass it on.
“If there’s any one lesson I’ve learned: writing is sort of a lost art and I would always encourage young people, particularly, to take up writing because if you can write well it is a differentiator. It will separate you from your competition and lead to other things.”
This is a quote from Kasey Pipes – a former White House presidential speechwriter – talking about the skills of writing speeches. But the overall message is that he has had a great career because he learned to write effectively. It’s a valuable skill that many of your competitors lack, and which canny employers value.
If you’re looking for a role model in the art of imagination, William Blake must be up there with the greatest. Extraordinary vision… and now I discover (very late) that he lived a few miles from where I was born, bred and educated. While I was learning Tyger, Tyger, I had no idea he was my neighbour (albeit a few hundred years adrift)…
We’ve been waiting for ages for one of the triumvirate to tell us when they are going to start repairing Blake’s Cottage. Nothing has been done and it’s now over a year since they bought the place. So I was very glad to hear that the Blake Cottage Trust had a website where they were going to keep us informed. And I visited it. I was seriously disappointed.
There wasn’t a word about repairing the cottage, not one single word, although it gave us a list of the ‘three forms of access’ there would be to it, presumably at some time in the future. I thought you would like to know what they are.
People can visit the cottage on open days. (Well that’s nice of them!)
Invited guests can stay and sleep in the cottage for a weekend or a week. (I wonder who they will be and who will choose them?)
If you want to write, and think you will self-publish, read this post. You need to know the very large differences between self-publishing and vanity publishing, and avoid the latter like the plague if you don’t want to be parted from large amounts of your money for very little return.
It’s St Valentine’s Day tomorrow – 14th February – the day which has been colonised and commercialised by the hazy notion of romance. If you don’t spend, you don’t care, and if you’re not in a couple you’re nowhere and nothing. If you feel alone – even if you’re at the centre of a busy family – then the fuss around this one winter’s day can be overwhelming, making you feel worse than ever.
BUT…. turn it to your advantage! Make imagination your friend instead of your enemy, and write yourself out of those lonely feelings. Leap out of the round-and-round whirlpool of miserable feelings and leap into the limitless worlds of possibility in your imagination. Spend the day (which is, rather conveniently, a Sunday this year) writing furiously, inventing, exploring, what-iffing.
Use Valentine’s Day as a prompt, if you like. Write Mr Right… or Mr Wrong. Write your perfect romance, or the nightmare romance. Not everything that happens on 14th February is lovely – remember the St Valentine’s Day Massacre – Chicago 1929. How could murder happen on this most loving of days?
Use your feelings, feed them into your powerful imagination, and create something great with the force of love behind it. Wherever that takes you.
This year’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is almost half-way. How’s your magnum opus going? Keeping up to the 1,500 words per day you need to make the 50,000 mark by the end of the month?
At midnight on Hallowe’en, when non-writers were tricking or treating, writers were scribbling the first words of their new novel, fired up in a frenzy to make the deadline as a NaNo winner this year.
NaNoWriMo is free to use and full of great inspiration, tips, advice, bottom-kicking posts, and the best bit – writing buddies. They can be next door or the other side of the planet (this is now InterNaNo, really, with writers at it the world over, not just in USA), and are there to provide solace, encouragement and competition: nagging to stop you flagging and quibbling to keep you scribbling.
Have a look here . If you feel that it’s too late for you this year, but a big note in next year’s diary and get ready for NaNoWriMo 2016.
Or do you have your own support network and writing buddies to get you through the writing doldrums? Let me know what you do to beat the writer’s block blues.
With huge thanks to the fabulous Criminal Element blog (www.criminalelement.com) I’ve just spotted this wonderful t-shirt.
It features the original UK book cover of The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle immortalised on a t-shirt – amazing!
And there are more. Out of Print Clothing have a huge range of t-shirts and other items showing original covers from a whole host of marvelous books – Catcher in the Rye, Pride and Prejudice, and many more!
“In Great Britain, at least as early as the 18th century, a volume of fresh herring before cleaning. From the Gaelic crann, a measure for herring. Sometimes spelled crane. A cran typically contains about 1200 fish, but can vary from 700 to 2500. The cran originated in Scotland as a heaped measure. A standard but bottomless 30-gallon herring barrel was filled to overflowing with fish, and then the barrel was lifted off. Because the fish were heaped, the resulting pile contained more than 30 gallons of herring – observers estimated around 34 wine gallons. An Act of 1815 allowed the Commissioners of the Fishery Board to define the size of the cran, which they did in 1816, setting it at 42 wine gallons.”
What does this spark in your imagination?
Ask yourself… Why? What if? Who? What next? Why not? How much? What for?
What crime could have sparked by an argument over the point of overflowing? Is there romance in measuring herring? Where’s the drama in the Fishery Commissioners’ cran committee?
Are you anxious about not having much imagination?
Do you worry?
Do you daydream?
Do you plan holidays?
Do you plan ahead for the weekend?
If you’ve said yes to any of those questions, you have a perfectly good imagination. In fact, if you’re human and reading this, you have a perfectly good imagination. Without it, you couldn’t worry, think about the future, daydream, write a shopping list, plan a holiday, or decide what to have for supper. Let alone run a household or fall in love or fantasise or buy Christmas presents…
You may not realise it, but you have to imagine everything you want to do before you do it. Think about it. First the idea, then the reality.
Are you aware that you’ve been trained to think? And that thinking is different to imagining?
The education process – a dozen years at school, at least – is all geared to teaching us to think. To analyse, to be logical, to manage, organise, filter, file, memorise… We are not taught to be inventors or innovators; original thinking is discouraged. Art lessons are about technique and art history; English lessons are about structure and syntax and organizing facts and subtext and other writers’ stuff.
School is designed to make us focus on the path to employment, vocation, career. We have to think about getting a proper job as soon as we get to high school. Before we even hit puberty, we have to stop daydreaming and playing, and be serious.
And what happens to our imagination? You tell me.
So… the good news is that your imagination is there, in full working order.
The bad news is that with nothing else to do, it’s bubbling away, concocting nightmares and waking you up at 3am in a muck sweat, keeping you awake, worrying.
The better news is that you can use all that imaginative power to create beauty and delight in whatever way you choose.
The best news is that you can learn how to grab hold of your imagination and go for a wild ride…and you can learn how in one single day. Actually you’ll learn the big secret in less than 10 minutes. The rest of the day will show you just how amazing your imagination is, and reinforcing the good news.
Where? How? At the Where do you get your ideasone-day workshop – see dates and venues here.
No hard work. No experience needed. And here’s the best bit: No thinking...
I guarantee you will have a great time. I guarantee you will succeed. I guarantee you will go home with new characters and new stories. I guarantee you will have more confidence in your storytelling. I guarantee that you’ll be surprised and delighted with what your imagination produces.
Now… I dare you to have a go. I dare you to make the breakthrough and find the story that needs writing. Email me today and ask any questions you have. Sign up today and commit to becoming a storyteller: on the page, on the stage, on the screen.