A series of eleven tips to help you get more time for writing, and to produce more writing when you do have time.
Every creative writing teacher repeats the classic axiom, “Write about what you know.” Therefore, it stands to reason that the more you know, the more things you’ll be able to write about.
Every experience, class, interesting acquaintance, or place you visit goes into your pantry of “ingredients” for new material. Part of your job as a writer is to collect these ingredients so that you can use them—by learning new subjects, doing new things, meeting new people, seeing new places. You’ll be surprised at how many doors will open for a writer doing research.
Strictly to broaden my knowledge-base of experiences over the years, I’ve taken a hot-air balloon ride, gone white-water rafting and mountain climbing, traveled to various cities and countries, been a guest backstage at rock concerts, attended a world-class symphony, and taken extensive tours of high-tech scientific research installations, visited a giant aircraft carrier, been on the floor of the Pacific Stock Exchange, taken cruises, gone zip-lining, and toured behind the scenes at FBI Headquarters.
Feeling less adventurous? Then do other things to get inspired. Read extensively, research esoteric topics, take a class about a subject you know nothing about. Watch documentaries at random. Go to a museum—especially an oddball one. Sign up for a ballroom dancing group, attend the meeting of a model-rocketry club, go outside at night and learn the constellations.
In your daily life, open your eyes and observe what is around you. Every experience is filled with details to absorb and use at some later time. Watch people. See what they do, observe how they act, listen to how they talk, try to understand who they are and make up biographies for them.
In short, exercise your creative muscles. Go outside your comfort zone. Stock up your mental pantry with ingredients so that you’ll have a lot to cook with. You never know what might spark a story idea or an interesting character, and being inspired will add to the energy you can put into your writing.
Terra Incognita #3, due out in June 2011
This blog series is part of a lecture I’ll be presenting at the Superstars Writing Seminar in January 13–15 in Salt Lake City, a three-day intensive workshop focused on business and careers in writing. Other instructors include Brandon Sanderson, Sherrilyn Kenyon, David Farland, Rebecca Moesta, and Eric Flint. We hope to see you there.