It is officially December, and one of my favorite traditions for this month is cleaning up all the little bits of this and that I have accumulated over the past year. During my days in the financial world, this usually meant ordering a recycling dumpster up to my office and hashing through several drawers worth of files to determine what was important enough to save for another year. Now life is a little easier. No dumpster in my office, no internal documents requiring shredding, just me, my cats, and a bunch of notes to sort through. So on that note, I will put out some of the ideas over the past 11 months that are worth mentioning but never became full comments.
- Within the privacy of your own writing world, do weird stuff. See if a different font inspires you. Try a genre you have never touched or possibly never liked. If you are a typist such as me, write something with a pencil and paper, or a pen, or even a crayon. In part this gets us out of our comfort zone, and it allows us to play with ideas. If they never work out, nothing is lost except for a little time. If something is gained, you grow as a writer. It's Pascal's wager, but with writing. So be weird, and see what happens.
- If you have an idea about something you want to put on the page, don't ask "Why?" Ask, "Why not?" Usually, the most resistance we feel as writers comes from inside, not outside. There are rarely outside forces making us stop writing, but our own little doubts and demons are always willing to challenge us and try to keep us away from doing things. As the saying goes, the biggest failure is not from something we attempted to do, but something we never tried to do. So put things on the page if only to learn from your failures.
- Read. Read everything. Read anything. Read outside your interests. At the very least, try and read something on a regular basis, just to let other ideas fly through your mind. See how other people put their words together and admire just how they do it. Or, for that matter, criticize what they do. The important part is to take on a regular injection of new ideas.
- Clear the clutter. This is something I mentally do on a regular basis just to get the distractions out of the way. Have you ever tried to write something but you can't help thinking about whether you've cleaned out the cats' litter box or if the mail has come yet? Not easy. Take a few moments now and then to sweep away the little things so you can focus on the task at hand.
- Write a poem. I know, I say this way too much. However, it has its purpose in that trying to communicate an idea while following a rhyme and rhythm structure takes incredible focus. The more you write little poems, the more you strengthen your capacity to focus on one thought, one mood, one theme.
And on that note, I am going to clear the rest of the clutter from my office. And I might just rethink that dumpster idea this year.