Friday, May 25, 2018

Summer Inspiration for Writers

The lazy days of summer are now upon us, complete with ice-cold lemonade and hours spent lounging in the hammock, reading for pleasure and writerly research, of course. No deadlines, no screaming children, no pressure or stress of any kind.

Well, we can always dream. Our summers are typically packed with ball games, lake trips, family activities, reunions. Tons of fun where we meet ourselves coming and going. On top of all this, we writers work other jobs. We raise our families. We volunteer in the community. We seek out adventure. We live. Because if all we did was hide in our writing holes and dream, we'd end up small-minded with nothing real to write about. Unless of course, we're Thoreau and are exploring philosophy.

Fortunately, the hectic moments of summer provide unique and energizing writing inspiration. Here's a few focus points to help you capture those fleeting moments when genius strikes (or can be finessed into existence with just the right touch):
  1. Relationships: In summer, we make extra time for friends and family. That means there's more opportunities for laughter, conflict, and exploring new ideas. Take note of the things that build connections in your relationships. What weakens them? How can laughter strengthen a relationship? When can it damage it? Are there people you interact with who tend to speak less than others? Or to dominate attention, either purposefully or by nature of their personality? Why? Are there simmering resentments that should be addressed or joys and gratitude that should be expressed? As you explore these issues, you will find your deepened understanding will enhance your relationships as well as your writing. 
  2. Emotions: Summer is often a time when we clean house, literally and figuratively. We shake off the dust and stillness of winter, throw off our coats, and seek out a little freedom. Consider how you feel in the transition time between winter doldrums and summer liberty. How does the hot sun on your skin or the cool wind through your hair make you feel? Are you emotionally affected by increased or decreased social interaction? What about your family and friends? What changes do you note in their moods? Do you see anyone becoming "hangry" when the BBQ is taking longer than expected (darn slow charcoal!)? How can you capture similar emotions in your writing? Take a few minutes at the end of the day and write a feeling, something you've felt that day or some emotion you've witnessed. How could your characters deal with feelings that push them a bit too far?
  3. Sensations: Summer is a wonderful time to contemplate and explore sensations. The weather has changed. We spend more time outside. What do you hear when you are out at the lake or on a morning run? Even sitting at home inside, the sounds can be different. Do you hear the drone of lawnmowers or the revving engines of motorcyclists? What about the birds chirping outside your window? Or the overpowering buzz of cicadas or songs of crickets? Depending on where you story takes place, some of these sounds may be absent or their could be other noises, like the call of children playing in the streets. Are the sounds in your stories sinister or commonplace? The tastes of summer again provide astonishing variety - the sweet tang of smoothies, the hot spices of salsa, or the flaky warmth of pastries at a bistro. Notice what stands out to you as the summer days pass, taking care to explore all five senses and incorporate them in your writing.
  4. Physical Movement: Summer is a time of movement. We hop on the bicycle a little more often or take wandering walks through the woods, dips in the pool, or hikes to and from various picnic places and ballfields. Being active makes our bodies feel different and, usually, work a little better. Note the soreness of your muscles as you become more active. Note the scrapes and bumps that we collect over the course of the summer. How long do they take to heal? How much does a sprain or a bruise actually limit activity? What does it feel like to ice a sore joint? How does it feel when our bodies are strong and healthy? All of these insights will making your writing more realistic and compelling to readers.
  5. Try Something New: This is some of the best advice writers can take. Try something new. Step out of your comfort zone and pick up a dance class. Or go parasailing. Or try walking across a fallen log. Opportunities to experience something new are all around us, if we are looking, and if we choose to be brave. They don't have to cost money or take a ton of time. It could be something as simple as cooking a new meal. Notice how you feel when trying new things. Nervous? Frustrated? Excited? How could this new experience fit into your current work-in-progress? If it doesn't, write a vignette or even a summary of what you did, how you felt, and what you thought. Then save it for later.
    Whatever your situation, summertime can be a springboard for your creativity. Enjoy!


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