Sunday, May 1, 2011

"Pictures of people taking pictures of people taking pictures"*

At the 2011 SCBWI Poconos conference, the session called "Writing Not Waiting" was taught by editor Robert Agis. He started us with some writing exercises, which I actually participated in whole-heartedly (sometimes I don't connect with the writing exercises in these types of workshops and can't really get into them). He gave us a line that we were to use as a catalyst to write. It didn't matter what we wrote, just that we wrote something.

It was surprisingly freeing. I haven't just sat and written without a defined purpose for a long time. I always feel guitly about doing that because I think I should be spending time on my current project or my blog or revising or creating freelance puzzles. These exercises reminded me that sometimes you need to sit and write freely and that it is not a waste. It will actually allow you to work on your own writing without the pressure of making things perfect (which is impossible anyway...perfection, that is).

That's one of the things I've been struggling with lately and relates to the whole getting-back-to-my-true-self goal. I haven't felt free while writing. I keep getting caught up in all the things I don't know about my characters and the setting or all the things I haven't researched yet. And my obsessive need to explore all these aspects of the story ad infinitum is holding me back from discovering the very things I've been obsessing over (and sucks all of the fun out of writing). Writing without judgement or too much thought may be just what I need to discover more about my story.

So in my ever-growing effort to be a better person/writer, I took some advice from Robert. He talked about using images as a stimulus for writing. He recommended taking stock images from websites and doing Internet searches to find photographs that represent characters or settings in your story. They can be there to act as "can openers" for your writing. Here's the can opener I created for my mermaid story.

Some of these are from my own photos from Tahiti (where the story takes place), others are Internet images and ones from magazines. The ones with writing on the bottom are English/French/Tahitian translations of popular words and phrases. The other writings are about black-pearl farming (which is the future trade of one of the main characters).

*Jack Johnson