I write. Every day. And I have my genetically bad memory to thank, because once inspiration hits, I must take note of it straight away. Otherwise, the thoughts fly out the window, leaving me sitting on the floor, frustrated.
Rule of thumb: If I have a pen and paper I write it down. If my laptop is in front of me, I type it out. If I’m busy doing something, I’ll text keywords in a message to a friend. And if I have nothing on hand; no tools, no devices whatsoever – I get rare sparks of inspiration in the washroom sometimes – I’ll say the idea out loud a few times. Sing it or rap it out even. Anything to jog the short-term memory.
(Keep in mind that if you have very thin walls, your neighbours will think you’re a bit odd. But that’s ok, you’re a writer. You’re meant to be odd.)
Speaking of writing, are there days when I get – gasp, wait for it – the evil of all evils; writer’s block? A sudden stop, a blank, or a lack of motivation, inspiration and joy to write? Absolutely. But it doesn’t last very long. In fact, I’ve been writing for over five years now, and I don’t ever recall being stuck for more than 15 minutes. Why? Because no sooner had I started one of the methods below, the ideas start flooding in, and words will start flowing across the paper – or screen – as if I’d just unplugged a massive dam that’s been blocking out a rainbow.
Here is how it’s done.
1. Close your eyes and see
Sounds cliché, I know. It’s like one of those activities your teacher asks you to do back in primary school, trying to get you to indulge in your creativity and use your imagination. Well, today my friend, it’s a little bit more than that.
The concept is still the same. Our world is filled with things. Too many things. Things that have colour, things that look odd, things that produce sounds, things you can smell and taste, and things you can touch. All too often, our brains take in so much information from all different that we are left with little to no space to do anything else. We feel bogged down from having so many things to think about, our minds are cluttered and we don’t even know where to begin cleaning it all up.
In this case, take a deep breath and let it out. Do this a few more times if you need to – release the tension first before you close your eyes. Try to see with your mind’s eye. Your mind will feel a lot clearer and you will have freedom to move around. Once you feel ready to explore, take note of your other senses. What can you hear, smell or touch? Now try to picture the piece of work you were working on. You may be surprised by the new perspective it brings you.
2. Focus on something and magnify it
If you are in a situation where you “just…can’t…think”, you’ve hit a blank or completely lost your train of thought, this might be useful to you. You might not get a complete solution to your work straight away, but at least this writing warm-up will help you re-build your confidence again.
For this exercise, look around you. The wall, the pen, the table, the floor. Anything that you clasp eyes upon first. It could be your big toe sticking out of your sock – it doesn’t matter! What does matter is that you can get up close and personal with it, so I really don’t highly recommend mousetraps.
On the matter of toes, let’s have a look at it. Magnify it. Note the toeprint, the swirls or special patterns. The touch of warmth or coldness (stupid hole in the sock), and the texture or ridges of the pattern like ripples of sand on barren deserts. Write it down. Write an essay about your toe. Or how about examining your white coffee mug? The dried stain where you drank it from, the semi-circle of chestnut brown, like a hammock in the snow. Something like that.
3. Go somewhere else
No, you don’t need to book a ticket to anywhere (unless you really, really want to). You don’t even need to go outside (again, unless you want to). I remember countless times when I felt the need for a change of environment but a typhoon was brewing. Unless I had a masochistic desire to be bashed in the face by road signs and branches, the only option was to stay indoors.
My 80-square-foot apartment is undoubtedly not the best place in the world to throw a birthday party for Grandma, but rest assured, it is still a pretty damn good place to get inspiration. Why? Because it’s packed with stories.
Walk around the room. Have a look, as if it’s your first time here. That Gudetama figurine collection covered with dust and the hardship I went through to get every piece? Story. The cheap earphones I bought at a stall, thinking it was a bargain, that I later found made everything sound like a muffled pigeon? Story. The letter on my wall from a Taiwanese friend that’s starting to look a little sorry for itself because I obviously didn’t look after it very well and the humidity is ruining it on a daily basis… Sorry, dude.
And if you don’t happen to be home or you don’t have a story, fear not! Ask yourself the question: What happens next? You pick up a flower pot…What happens next? You wash the dishes and the bubbles are forming…What happens next? There’s a mosquito in the room…What happens next?
No matter which method works for you, never doubt yourself. Remind yourself of all the achievements you’ve had so far. Those are not for nothing. Now, it’s merely a time for you, as a writer, to test your limits, to explore outside of your comfort zone. It’s almost an opportunity to be reborn, to be a child and be fascinated again. And who knows what could happen…
Maybe the next best-seller could be you ; )