“Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it.”
Madeleine should surely know about inspiration, since she wrote A Wrinkle in Time, a hauntingly beautiful and mysterious children’s classic. For me, her comment is one of those gems of wisdom I’d love to have imprinted on the top of every page I write on. The idea that inspiration blossoms during work is very reassuring: it gives us permission to come to a writing session fully aware that it may take us a while to get our creative juices flowing — and to feel fine about it. We don’t have to hit the page running, we can take some time to warm up.
This is exactly the idea behind starting your writing day with “Morning Pages” — an approach that Julia Cameron suggests in The Artist’s Way and elsewhere. She sees these three or so pages that you dash off as a mental housecleaning — a way to brush the cobwebs from your brain so you can get down to serious business. Ever try this technique? The most intriguing thing about writing three or four pages of whatever happens to be in your head at the moment is that you can start in one place unloading basically random thoughts and end up some place dramatically different — unearthing a deep childhood memory or some insight about a character you’re trying to create.
Here’s another exercise you can use to loosen things up: write down three words that pop into your head or pick three from a newspaper article that jump out at you and then write for 15 minutes without stopping and weave them into a story. You’ll be amazed at what you come up with — you might end up with a great idea or scene that you can use elsewhere.
The best thing about these techniques like these is that they’re fun and freeing — anything goes and nothing matters. Balancing discipline with this kind of abandon can be powerful.
Any warm-up strategies you’ve used with success?