So November kicks of National Novel Writing Month (AKA NANOWRIMO) and while many of us may not write, on average, 1600+ words a day to meet the word-count for a novel, we can still take this month to open up our creativity through writing. As such, here are ten helpful tips:
1. Tell yourself that you are not a real writer
Because real writers (whatever those are) write real writing (whatever that is) and someday, but not today, you will be a real writer writing real work, but wait when does this happen one wonders? And how? Of course, you could start writing today, and then see what happens. Who’s up for adventure?
2. Only write perfect sentences
I was once told that James Joyce only wrote one sentence per day, and that is why I would never be a writer. Perhaps I should have just written one perfect, precious, sentence per day and then after a year of labor would have had the best paragraph ever. Hmmm… I think there might be something a little off with this cost-benefit ratio. Most writers will say that they write crap sentences all the time! I do. They will also say the trick is to write a lot, and then edit. Those lovely sentences that you want start to show up way more often the more often you write.
3. Wait for inspiration to strike
Did you know the ancient Greeks believed in nine muses? (Not to be confused with the Kpop band). The Greek muses were thought to be the source of music and thought, and writers would beseech them. I am willing to bet that there were a lot of writers waiting around, who never really got to writing. Writing is more about endurance and discipline: discipline to write to your goals (even when there’s other fun stuff all around) and endurance to just keep going. If you must have a muse, maybe take a look at Garcia Lorca’s essay on Duende.
4. Be original
Most writers, the real ones I mean, write work that no one has ever thought of. I mean Harry Potter was a completely original idea, right? (Write?). Turns out Harry Potter has a lot in common with this guy:
Turns out Neil Gaiman came up with Tim Hunter, an English boy wizard, who had an owl, and magic tutors, and wore round glasses, several years before Rowling, and he credits some of his ideas to growing up reading T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, which was based on Mallory’s La Morte D’Arthur written in the 1450s. So there you have it, you should only write original things–just like the incredibly successful writers Neil Gaiman and J.K. Rowling.
5. Write in your perfect place
This one seems pretty obvious because your perfect place is always available for writing! I mean my perfect place is this great cafe in downtown Oakland which has a tree in the back deck with a table that has all these inspiring carvings and when no one else is there, and I am there, and inspiration strikes with a totally original idea, then I put pen to paper and start writing. Happens all the time. Yeah.
6. Write with / on your perfect tool
Well, yeah. You need perfect material — whether it’s a laptop or a pen or a sketchbook with stickers — to go with your perfect place. Jeff Vandermeer, author of Wonderbook, advises that you write on anything, anywhere whenever you have an idea. He likes index cards in his back pocket, but has typed on his phone, penned in notebooks, scribbled on newspapers, whatever. But this guy’s only written a few books and has only won one world fantasy award.
7. Only write serious work
To be respected you’ve got to write serious writing. Maybe about social collapse or the plight of modern man as told through the life of one lonely–and doomed–salesman. Some might say that you may never even write a word in your search for the perfect topic with enough gravitas, but If you think hard enough, a perfect and serious metaphor should come to mind. Never mind that what you would really like to write about is a tribe of children who shape-shift into toads and conquer Bolinas.
8. Wait until the idea crystallizes in your mind
Because once you have your novel in your head, you can start writing it out. Some might say that an outline is enough or a few character sketches, but I say, no way! Get the entirety of your book, poem, song, in your head, memorized basically, and then recite it to the page. The page will fall in love with you, as will your pen, and laptop. It will be perfect. Another suggestion is to write toward an idea. You know, like maybe you have no idea why those kids can turn into frogs, but you have a clear image of them falling into the trees, and people running indoors, and other kids running around trying to catch them, but the were-frogs are too fast! Anyway, this is only a fragment, and who knows what would happen if you started to write from there without knowing exactly what could happen next. Heck, you might surprise yourself!
9. Write only what you know
I have read this in a lot of books (srsly). Thus it must be true. Writers, serious writers of serious work, say that you should only write what you know, and that to move beyond that will sound inauthentic. And what might happen if you wrote about something you didn’t know?! Well, what then, my friend? Perhaps you might be forced into the uncomfortable position of learning more about yourself through your writing, becoming more curious about the world as you test its borders, and, hoo-boy, maybe even wanting to do a bit of reading on a topic to learn more as you write.
10. Play some Robot Unicorn Attack
Because this game, never ends. You can play it forever–or at least until that pesky urge to write goes away.