Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Sitting in Pictures.

The book on writing I’m reading this week is Skip Press’s How to Write What You Want and Sell what You Write. I’d never heard of Skip before this week (found the book on sale at a large chain book store not to be named unless kickbacks are in order), but at least one of his ideas resonated with me. Also, it follows along with a thread fellow titler Evonne started a few weeks ago.

Sitting in Pictures. Skip Press gives credit to the Hopi tribe for this idea, but I’ve been doing something close since I was a child. Okay, since the tribe has been in existence for centuries, they still might have done it first.

So, in order to sit in pictures…make sure your writing space is blank and boring. No, really. If you have a beautiful office with windows, close most of the blinds. If you have created a collage to represent your work in progress, stare at it for awhile. Just as I tell my students in order to avoid plagiarism—read the article, understand it, then put it away. Take the pictures you chose for the collage and absorb them, then put them away. Stare at a blank wall. Watch the movie your brain makes as it unfolds until you get stuck. Or until you get to the point you start feeling like an idiot for staring at a blank wall.

Then write.

That’s the basic idea. My actual mode of operations is to lie in bed and dream while awake. Or ride my bike and let the story happen in my head (I’ve only wrecked once in five years, so it may be legal—and, I only ride on trails not on roads with traffic). Or walk the dog. Or walk period. I see the story happen. And I talk the part of the main female character, make her gestures, feel her emotions (when absolutely no one's around).

Then I go back to my computer and write. I’m not published yet (hence, my entry into the contest) so I’m not making any grand claims to this being a fantastic technique. But, I am only able to write in the summers because of my job and I have been able to finish a manuscript each summer for the last four years.

Who knows? Maybe it will help you if you hit a writer’s block. Or it could be just plain fun to let yourself go that much—even if you never write a word.

I imagine a Hopi girl, sitting on some boulder in the New Mexican desert and staring at a sky just past sunset. When there’s enough light to see, but not enough to know what’s real anymore and what’s not. She sees her future, a strong warrior, a baby with fat, brown cheeks, and days so stable she can sleep where she is, leaning against a scrub pine. It’s a good place to be, sitting in pictures.


Savanna Kougar said...

Lexie, I don't know about the blank screen affect. However, walking has always worked for me, especially walking in nature. I'm also a sky lover, so I'm always gazing up at the heavens. And daydreaming just before or after sleeping has brought about some of my best story ideas, or the next scene, or how the plot progresses.

Lexie O'Neill said...

Looks like today's a slow day:) Thanks for the comment--you're so good!
Okay, I'll admit I stare at the sky sometimes, too. :)

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Lex, I get get what you are saying in that I need to feed the beast (my writer inspiration) with everything I see and feel, but when I sit down to write, I take that all in and channel it. It's kinda like what we were talking about with music--it can be a great thing but also detract, depending on your state of mind. I love to put together a collage of images for a novel--little bits and pieces of things I want to include. But I can't look at them when I write. I kinda hold them in my head and go from there. :)

Helen Scott Taylor said...

Hi lexie, I do something similar to this, but I find I 'imagine' best when I'm moving. I like to walk rather than sit and stare. I walk for twenty minutes to visualise my scene, then return home and write it down. For me, another good stimulus for imagining scenes is whenever I sit in front of a computer to do accounts. I can drift off for hours!