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Thursday Thirteen #5 - The Writing Life


If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it. ~ Anais Nin

13 techniques to nurture your writing life:

1. Find the Music: If you are writing about a specific period, spend time listening to the music from that era. If you are writing about a foreign place, surround yourself in the sounds of the particular culture.

2. Make a List: List-making is valuable at any stage of the creative process. If you are writing a book and feeling stuck, start a list of chapter titles.

3. Study a Photograph:

Like this one:


Or this one:


Let the picture inspire you to write about the time, incidents or emotions the image evokes.

4. Eavesdrop: Many writers are notorious eavesdroppers. When standing in line at the grocery store, coffee shop or post office, have a notebook with you so you can jot down the odd things you overhear. Pay attention to the rhythms of speech, the vernacular and tone.

5. Explore a Dictionary: Pick a page at random and spend the next five to ten minutes reading every word. Make a list of odd words that you would like to incorporate into your writing. Gain new insight by learning the etymology. See my recent post on navel-gazing.

6. Build a History: Make your characters come to life. Imagine the 13 most significant events in his/her life starting with birth and ending with death. Describe your character’s favourite music and food. Add information on all their health, financial and relationship issues. Where do they live, work, play? What stage of their lives are they at when your reader encounters them?

7. Write a Letter: Many books start out as letters to loved ones. Many of my poems, or longer prose pieces have started out as letters or journal entries. I find writing a letter gives me permission to explore new ideas without worrying about creating a perfect piece of prose.

8. Get Specific: Take a look at something you’ve written and highlight any sections that are vague. You want readers to see the same things that you see. The more details you provide, the more your writing will ring true. A reader can always tell when the writer doesn’t understand his/her topic. Don’t be afraid of research; and, don’t be afraid to write down what you know.

9. Eliminate Words: Bad writing is part of the creative process. Give yourself the freedom to write really bad first drafts. Get it all out. Put it away in a drawer for a week or two. Give your writing time to settle. Then, revise, revise, revise. Circle places where your writing is vague - either delve deeper, cross it out or move it someplace else. A beautiful phrase or sentence may be just that - it may not fit the piece you’re working on. Save the phrase, sentence, paragraph, even character for another day.

10. Slow Down: Always read your writing aloud, slowly. Listen to the rhythms of your prose. Give your writing a chance to expand, to breathe. Does the format you’ve selected match what you’re trying to say? Allow yourself the quiet that you need to really pay attention to your work. It’s amazing what you’ll discover in 20 minutes of quiet time.

11. Feed the Senses: The main character in my novel-in-progress is an artist named Magda. I was having difficulty describing her paintings because the last time I attempted to paint something was in high-school. So I took a painting course at a local college. I also have a membership to our local art gallery.

Magda’s also single (I am not). She’s having a tough time in her relationships. Whenever I want to conjure up some dating angst, I pop in one of my “Sex in the City” DVDs.

Writing doesn’t exist in a vacuum - it is directly related to our other senses.

12. Read, Read, Read: Newspapers, periodicals, books and other blog sites are often good sources of information and inspiration. You may find inspiration in the classifieds or obituaries (not than I’m obsessed with death).

Here are three site that I visit daily: Salon; Arts and Letters Daily; and, Slate.

What are yours?

13. Act Successful: To be a writer, act like a writer. Give your writing the respect it deserves. Give yourself time to write and then do it!

Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

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Oh Wow, I love lists and these are excellent suggestions. Thanks so much for your insights.

This is a GREAT list! Thanks for visiting my blog yesterday. I will try to visit here more often.

Great writing tips here! I love to write, but don't think I am very good at it. I am going to take this list to heart and improve my writing!

Thank you for the inspiration and stopping by my blog.


This is such an excellent list. I am printing it out and putting it near my computer to remind me! mahalo nui loa!

Thanks for visiting my TT.

Good post on writing I love to read and you hear the most interesting stuff eavesdropping at Walmart yesterday I heard an associate bragging how her married boyfriend was finally getting divorced because the wife had finally given up making their life hell, because she wouldn't roll over and give hubby a divorce on HIS terms.

Pardon me but I think the other woman probably made the wife's life hell first.

Great list - especially the bit about acting successful and respecting your own craft.

What an excellent list! This is all great advice, and some are things I use to break through tough or blocked spots.

great list. i'm a great proponant of reading and research--grist for the mill. and i love to read dictionaries and explore the connotations and histories of a word's use.

thanx for visiting my TT 13 research projects impacted by the looming library closure

Happy T13.

Great list, I totally agree with the photo for inspiration one.

Great writing tips! Thanks for sharing them. I like your idea of using photographs - the ones you've displayed are very thought-provoking.

Thanks for visiting!

This happens to be one of the most interesting lists I've ever read. I'm no writer but I'll try your tips.

Thanks for stopping by and I'll see you around :)

Happy weekend!

great 13 list! I find reading and acting successful to be a huge help in my own writing.

thanks for visiting my blog...come back any time.

I bookmarked this so I can work through all the ideas later. :-)

Awesome list -- so inspiring! Thanks for all the great tips. :)

I LOVE your 13.

I like to write, mostly for hobby now, though once I had dreams of being rich and famous.

Great list! I love it! :)

I'm definitely going to have to come back by.

This is a truly great list. Lots of wonderful ideas for getting the juices flowing. And I'm very glad to know that my eavesdropping habit is a good thing. It's wonderful to hear odd fragments as you walk down the street and then try to fill in the rest of the conversation.

I am up here
Very good 13, I am a wanna be writer, I have not gotten quite on the path. I have another blog here where I started then realized I was writing to much about my past, not sure mom would like it :-)

Wow, a great list! And excellent, wise advice. I enjoy reading about how other writers write, and I do several of those things myself. And I agree with having cat muses, too -- I have four, hee hee. :)

Have a great weekend, and thanks so much for visiting my blog.

Great Ideas !!
..and..yes..I have huge ponds that attract waterfowl that eat my fish and ducks that eat everything else..you can read more about my ducks here

I look at recipes. Many of my posts came about because reading recipes stirred memories of events about certain foods I was eating at the time.

Also smelling different items in the supermarket reminds me of when I was a child and the view of the world I had at that time.

BTW - thanks for visiting me - I linked to you from TT Ziggurat and the 13 Tallest Towers

Wow! That's an awesome list! I a) want that picture of the suitcase with the sand to frame and put on my wall, b) am a HUGE eavesdropper. best method for doing so? taking your laptop to a coffee shop and watching and listening. no one thinks you're listening in if you're typing away! great list. Thanks for stopping by my place, too!

love these!! especially the eavesdropping - some of "my" best lines have been picked up on transit :)

Great 13!

I think my best writing comes from just noticing my surroundings. Being aware of everything, particularly small things, going on around me.

Take care,

This is an awesome list and perfect. I so needed to read this today to remind me why I do this in the first place.

Thanks for dropping by my blog this am. Happy TT and Happy writing!

Very useful list ! I am not a writer and I love your list.
Thanks for stopping by ! :-)
Happy T13

I'm not a writer, but I think this is a fantastic list!

Happy TT!

Hey, I think I needed to see some of these.
Thanks for your comment.

This has to be one of the cutest domains I've ever seen!

These are GREAT! You put a lot of thought into this. I just wish I had more time TO write.

All very good tips. I do most of them.

These are fabulous suggestions. Great TT, Thanks for visiting mine as well.

Great list and packed full of useful information. Thank you for sharing it with us.
Terrific Thursday Thirteen!
My TT is posted.
Have a wonderful day!
Happy TT'ing!
(")_ (")Š

Very inspiring TT, thanks for a wonderful list which gives me a lot to think about...I write to keep my brain cells working, mainly, because English is not my first language and I don't use it on an everyday basis, only to blog... Love the tip about the music too.
Happy thirteening!

Thanks for sharing the tips and for stopping by :)

Heya! This was a great list! I've been wanting to write a book of my own for years now...yet I've always been stuck with beautiful non-related pieces of writing...haha.

Maybe I should try something like "A collection of random paragraphs"

Great list again! Learnt a lot

WOW! I think that's the most informative TT I've ever come across! Well done!

Thanks for dropping by - we were on the Island for 3 years and are hoping to get back soon. Nice to meet another BC'er :-)

Thank you for sharing the best 13 tips! I've learned a lot! :)

Don't forget to add "get a muse" - cats make good muses!

Thank you for this TT! I try to write, but could never quite get the hang of it. I'm definitely going to try these tips! Oh, and thanx for stopping by! :)