Feeding the Writer's Soul
By Joan Whetzel
Writers need to feed their writer's soul. This regular care and feeding fills their repository of writing ideas and writing skills. It recharges their batteries, relieves the boredom, it jars them out of our thinking patters and back into real life. It reminds them to ask "what if…?" It makes them use different parts of their brains. It requires them to leave the house on an excursion or try things at home to loosen the verbal and creative centers of their brains and then to write down everything they've discovered or encountered in concrete, juicy verbs and nouns.
Feeding the Senses
Feeding the writer's soul begins with feeding the sense. Don't just feed them with pleasant experiences. It's important to choose some unpleasant experiences as well. Both are fodder for writers. Try any of the following and add some of your own.
- Smell: Pleasant experiences - flowers, baking, slow roasted chicken, fresh mown grass
Unpleasant experiences - sweat, garbage, skunks, vomit, dirty diapers, manure
- Sight: Pleasant - flowers, stained glass, artwork, sunshine, seashells, smiles
Unpleasant - skid row, crime, horror movies, autopsies, blood, snakes
- Touch: Pleasant - velvet, baby powder, bubble bath, pearls, clean sheets, massage
Unpleasant - sandpaper, heavy/oily skin cream, worms, slime, sunburns, fish guts
- Taste: Pleasant - chocolate, chicken and dumplings, butterscotch shakes, burgers,
Unpleasant - haggis, liver and onions, vinegar, escargot, caviar, "Bizarre Foods"
- Hearing: Pleasant - jazz, classical music, birds, crickets, rain, laughter, a good joke
Unpleasant - crying/screaming/whiny kids, door slamming, squeaky floorboards
Expressing Your Creativity in Other Arenas
Experiment with other creative outlets in music, art, crafts or cooking. Try playing an instrument. You don't have to be good at it, or even play for an audience. The only requirement is to enjoy the pleasure of making music.
In art, there's always drawing, painting or photography. Whatever the preferred arform, try experimenting with colors, zooming in or zooming out, abstracts, black and white or single color format, manipulating the medium to your own delight. The aim isn't necessarily to create something to sell, though, if the finished piece is good then go for it. Hey, it's money you didn't have before, right? Other artistic endeavors might include clay sculpting, pottery, jewelry making, stained glass, or wood burning, to name a few.
Crafts have been a staple for home artists for centuries. Think folk art, crocheting, knitting, sewing, needlepoint, or cross-stitch. These could also be turned into Christmas or birthday presents.
Then there's cooking. It not only feeds the body, it feeds the soul. Experiment with herbs and spices to create flavor combinations that you and your family love. Try unfamiliar ingredients. You never know, you might be surprised at how good that new menu item something tastes. You may not be brave enough to go all out like Andrew Zimmern on "Bizarre Foods," but try that caviar or escargot before you dis it.
Taking in Other Peoples' Creative Endeavors
Reveling in other people's artistic abilities is always fun and could lead you to trying out some of their techniques. Visit art museums, galleries, photo exhibits. Look at magazines with lots of pictures (travel, Life, National Geographic, art and photo magazines) and coffee table books that have artwork and photos of every kind to stimulate the visual part of your brain. Try writing a paragraph or a few sentences describing the pictures.
Go to restaurants. Try guessing the ingredients of your favorite menu items, then go home and try to reproduce them. Watch cooking shows. They give you the ingredients and you get to see the techniques they're discussing. If the recipe sounds good and the techniques fit your cooking skill - or are even a little challenging - then you've learned something new.
Read fashion magazines and watch fashion or sewing shows. Try designing or sewing some garments for yourself or your family. It's another way to challenge your artistic nature.
To challenge your listening skills, get some CDs or MP3 downloads of music you wouldn't normally listen to. Try world music, jazz, or some rock group you've never heard of before, I like to listen to music that jar's my ears out of what they were expecting to hear. Some of my favorite music involves artists playing instruments in musical genre's other than what they are traditionally played in. Regina Carter, for instance, place jazz viola. And Bela Fleck, who usually plays bluegrass banjo, has a classical music album out in which he transposed several pieces of music for solo banjo or banjo and strings. The point is, to listen out of your comfort zone or listen to the unexpected.
The best way to feed your writer's soul and look for new or different writing skills, turns of phrases, or writing ideas is to read other peoples' writing. Read across all genre's not just the one you write in. I've never figured out how to write poetry, though I've learned to love reading it. I absolutely love to read good fiction, though I'm lousy at writing it. I probably read less nonfiction, especially since I graduated college and no longer have to read it.
Use these techniques or any other tried and true systems to stir your imagination, to stimulate the right side of your brain, and to challenge you out of your comfort zone. They'll take you out of the familiar, expected, boring ruts writer's find themselves in from time to time, and stimulate you to try some new and interesting ideas, stories, or twists on a familiar subject.