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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Bad Cafe Behaviors--Bad!

I promised in my last post that going forth into the world would soon yield someone, anyone, making you mad, and that would manifest as writing material.

Tonight I sat in a cafe and found three things that might spark a good scene, and by scene, I mean piece of fiction or a fight:

  1. The man sitting behind me coughing at volume 11 with no predictability--spastic eruptions ruffling the back of my hair. I waited till he left for the restroom to change my seat. When he returned, he grabbed his things and left. Exquisite timing, sir. You're gone, yet no doubt your pathogens still coat the back of my head.
  2. The mother who let her nine year-old child peer at me, uninterrupted, for a good minute. It didn't help the child observed me like someone trying to identify an alien life form. This same child then gave the adult a tour of a mathematical computer game. I wonder if they sell a Social Skills Game where folks help their children and themselves learn the expiration date on staring.
  3. The barista impersonating a trumpet and breaking randomly into lyrics such as "the hills are alive with the sound of music." I'd need inspiration, too, clearing tables left cluttered with books patrons didn't have class enough to buy or return to shelves. I'd also want a good song to help me pass the time. But earbuds, man, and inner monologue; two AWESOME ideas. 

Insert misanthropic writer and you have your scene. But move the action out of my writerly head and get someone to take a stand, teach some manners, or belt out a competing song. Let things get dicey and way off track when someone does the unthinkable in a cafe. 

Finish the story for me. Pick your pet peeve of the three, or invent your own. Tell me what I ought to have done had I the wit, the insanity, or the gall to make a scene. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Survival Tips, Part 2: 10 Ways to Get Yourself Writing

Image found here
  1. Support your local independent coffeehouse. Go where the coffee is rich, fresh, and just roasted; go where the owners take personal care of their customers. Promise yourself that for every $3 you spend, you will write 300 words.
  2. Get mad at someone. Don't worry, someone will irritate you soon. Once he or she obliges you, write a rant or piece of fiction in honor of the irritant, and also for revenge. Then if you've gotten the angst out of your system, send that person a mental blessing. Say, Art has set me free. (Even if you don't yet feel that way.)
  3. Set a deadline with a friend. Ask someone to swap writing with you within a certain time period. Make it short; over 3 days means you have way too much time to procrastinate.
  4. Go look at a gravestone and ask yourself if you really want to die with that great idea still unwritten.
  5. Play Prompt Roulette. Pick up any book of prompts you shelved with great intentions and grab one off a page. Here's the catch; it has to connect to the project you're avoiding. I dare you. Your writerly mind is creative enough to forge some kind of ridiculous connection. Do it!
  6. Ask 5 people you see every day if they ever dreamed of writing a book or if they've got one in mind or maybe one even in progress. See what interesting poll results you get, especially in answer to, "What would your book be about?" See just how many (4 out of 5 if not 5) have not yet started. Vow to yourself to break the trend and write 500 words in rebellion to everyone's fruitless dreaming.
  7. Surf the TV (I recommend the E Channel or some celebrity-ridden site) and see if you can find at least one talent-less individual who has a book on the shelves. (This shouldn't take long.) Vow to write your passion with craft and excellence, even if you feel your talent is very raw and unformed. Vow to pursue craft. Then go craft at least 100 words, and spend no fewer than 30 minutes on this. Hone, polish, revise. Tell yourself you've redeemed the world somewhat by adding craft instead of drivel. Set a date to return to this page. 
  8. Make a mix tape. It should be the soundtrack of the piece you are writing. For example, it could be your main character's Top 10 or it could be the mood mix for your poem. It could be the collection of anthems to get your essay or column written. Spend loving, meticulous time getting this mix just right and in the perfect sequence. Then play it at the perfect volume and staple your derriere to the chair.
  9. Ask a person who loves you to tell you why you need to write and then go do what they say. 
  10. Make a list of 10 things you are grateful for or 10 things you adore. Think about how these things matter and how one or more of them might relate to your passion for the written word and uplifting theme and transcendent magic of books. 
Of course, you can be a bit more focused and methodical about attacking your writer's block by checking out Gretchen Rubin's "Having Trouble Getting Yourself to Write? 9 Tips" post. I think my favorite is #8 with that great piece of advice from Virginia Woolf.

Don't forget three other tips for writing survival. Do whatever it takes.

And the 15-minutes-a-day plan Rubin mentions has been the only way writing's getting done right now. There's a time for productivity and a time to be lost. And while you're lost, if you show up to the page for even 15 minutes, then my, that's something.