Architecting Skylight

Architecting Skylight

Moderately Meditated: Self-Editing

English: Hands collaborating in co-writing or ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why is it so hard to self-edit?

Most people would say that it’s important to be able to shut off the inner-editor so that writing quickly and freely becomes a much more manageable task. But what do you do when your editor needs to be switched on?

One of the hardest parts of writing isn’t actually the writing itself, but the editing. This is especially true for authors trying to edit their own pieces. It’s very difficult to critique something you put your heart into. But if you are lucky enough to notice that something is wrong with your piece, you may not be lucky enough to know exactly what it is.

Last night I found myself grappling with a self-editing issue. My solution? Ask someone else. After emailing a friend and persistently knocking on the door of a fellow English major, I got some feedback. Even after a really helpful editing session with my friends, I still had a hard time fixing my piece. How do I figure out exactly what my story needs to be better?

I finally managed to fix a few of the issues my classmates pointed out, but only after staring at the screen for a long time (maybe longer than necessary). Eventually I sat myself down (literally) and asked myself what it was I wanted to communicate with this story. What’s my point? What’s my conflict? Why should anyone read this?

I’m not sure if I can answer those yet, but I did “finish” my story (are they ever finished?).

Fellow writers! Help! Any insights? How do you go about editing yourself? Helpful tips are welcome!

Quote #9

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” — Mark Twain, The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain

Quote #8

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” — Sylvia Plath

Quote #7

“When I face the desolate impossibility of writing five hundred pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me, and I know I can never do it. Then gradually, I write one page and then another. One day’s work is all I can permit myself to contemplate.” — John Steinbeck

Treating Your Creative Problem with John Cleese, M.D.

Have you been feeling uncreative lately? Lethargic? Bogged down by work, social life, and remembering to feed your cat?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be suffering from moderate to severe writer’s block.

And yes, I’m a sufferer too.

But don’t worry, I may have found the solution.

John Cleese’s five steps to unleashing your creativity may just be the cure you’re looking for. But first, let’s discuss what it is.

In this presentation on the difficulties people face with creativity, actor/writer/creative specialist John Cleese claims that by simply following five simple steps people can break down the dreaded writer’s block and harness their existing creative abilities. He states that no one person is necessarily more creative than the other, but is perhaps better at getting in the right mindset for creativity to flourish. Here’s how you do it:

1) Space – To get into the “open mode” (the frame of mind where creativity lies), one must create a separate physical space for thinking, one which is closed off from outside pressures. If your thinking-space is in the middle of the living room, the same room in which your children are playing and the phone is ringing off the hook, you won’t be placing yourself in an environment conducive to creativity. One must create a separate and quiet space for thought.

2) Time – You must be in your quiet space for a certain amount of time, starting and ending at a particular time. Be sure to allot this time for pure, distraction-free thinking. As a recommendation, an hour and a half is generally a sufficient amount of time to allow racing thoughts to cease and to facilitate creativity.

3) Time – Altogether a different step, this time refers to time allotted to pondering an idea. Cleese found that the longer a person plays with an idea, the more original that idea becomes. If a person were to simply take the first idea that came to them, that idea might not be original at all. It is those who can survive the anxiety of not having yet solved the problem, those who have taken the time to expand upon and play with their ideas, who have the most original and creative thoughts.

4) Confidence – Always remember that there is no wrong answer. People who believe that their ideas are wrong or not good will lose confidence and be less likely to be creative. Ideas are stimulated by environments which are free of negativity. If swapping ideas with others, never feel that you have to be defensive about your ideas. Encouragement and playing with ideas is a better and more appropriate way of fostering original thoughts. You cannot make mistakes. There are none.

5) Humor – Don’t forget to have fun with it. There’s no need to get so “serious” about trying to force creative thoughts out. Laugh at your ideas. Laugh at other things. But always laugh. Humor is the quickest way to get into the open mode and its the easiest way to stay there.

Keeping these five steps in mind, allow your brain to play with your subject or topic. Don’t force anything. Original thoughts have the oddest way of popping up in random places if one allows oneself to think.

John Cleese as a civil servant in the halls of...

We’d never have this hilarious bit if someone didn’t sit down to think about it.

Which of these five steps do you struggle with most? Space? Time? Time? Confidence? Humor? And if you have other tips or “medication” for solving writer’s block and boosting creativity, let me know in the comments.

What I’m Inspired By: Photography

Inspiration is…well…everywhere. It’s in the way the sun bounces along the crystals of ice on the sidewalk, the way that opera singer belted out that last note, and it’s even in the way that little brown squirrel scurried past me on my way to class this morning.

But if inspiration is everywhere, why is it so hard for writers to find? Perhaps it’s because we hardly even notice these sources of inspiration anymore, especially in this day and age when there’s so much else to occupy us.

Distraction is part of the problem. What writers really need is a machine to slow time, something that allows them to take a moment and just be able to think about it, analyze it, and experience it. Events in life happen too fast for most people, and I think that’s where some of the inspiration can be lost: in the passage of time.

This is why I believe photography is one of the best tools a writer can use in order to capture these moments and hold on to them until they’ve gotten all their thoughts on the subject down in writing. Writers can photograph their own sources of inspiration, or even consider a picture of something another photographer was inspired by. The way in which different ideas can arise from the same source is what makes creativity so engaging, and so I’ve placed below a few photos that inspire me, ones that I feel I could base a story from.

If you feel inspired by these pictures as well, share your ideas in the comments. And for more photos like these, check out my Writer’s Block photo collection on Pinterest:        http://pinterest.com/lpaigewrites/writer-s-block/

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(As you can see, I tend to be inspired by places. What are you inspired by?)