Monday, April 15, 2019

Can Writing Motivate Writing?

by Paula Gail Benson

When your day job requires extensive writing, can the well run dry? Do you come home from work and avoid the computer or laptop, just ready to let the words flow over you from the closest television or other viewing or listening device? Do you wake reserving your word skills for the workplace rather than spending an early morning hour on a fiction project before heading to the office?

As a legislative attorney, I’m constantly working with language. It’s always fascinating to try to explain a concept with brevity, clarity, and comprehensiveness. Like working on a puzzle, it’s usually a matter of figuring out how to put the pieces together to create a picture everyone can see, appreciate, and understand.

However, after a full day of writing and rewriting, sometimes it’s difficult to convince myself that I need to put in a few more hours at home, even if it’s on a project I’m truly devoted to completing. I convince myself I need a break. And, once I give myself permission to relax (to be ready for what tomorrow brings), then it’s easy to keep depending upon that rest period.

So, I began thinking about how to use my work writing to energize my fiction writing.

Last year, I started “bullet journaling” to organize my schedule and keep notes. I wrote a message about it here at The Stiletto Gang. The official website was established by Ryder Carroll, who now has a book called The Bullet Journal Method. Because bullet journaling is adaptable to each practitioner, the ways to set up a journal may differ. I have used my bullet journal not only to track appointments, work projects, and daily accomplishments (like a mini-diary), but also for fiction. With everything in one easy to carry notebook, I can capture ideas, phrases, bits of dialogue, and other things I want to remember to explore in a story. For example, at dinner one night, I had an incredible view overlooking the city. I wanted to capture what I was seeing and wrote a description while I waited for the meal. Now, I have the words to remember the image I found so intriguing. Maybe I’ll use it in a story or maybe it’s just for my benefit, but it exercised those writing muscles and that is always a good thing. Having the bullet journal made the writing possible.

The hand-written aspect of the bullet journal allows me to “think on the page” in a different way from typing. In addition, because the bullet journals I use have a “dot grid,” I’m not restricted by lined pages. I can write at an angle if I want or use drawings to help illustrate what I mean. (I wonder if I should try drawing legislative concepts?)

Another “exercise” I’ve found myself using lately is to retell familiar stories from a single character’s perspective. In particular, I’ve worked on a series of fairy tales, starting with the prince’s viewpoint, then progressing to secondary characters, and finally villains. I write examples on my personal blog, where I limit each entry to 100 words (a drabble), forcing myself to make every word count and meaningful, just like with writing legislation. It’s been a good motivator, allowing me to focus on character traits and motivations rather than plot. For one group (the villains), I used rhyme, another variation from my day job.

What I’ve concluded is that filling that blank page, whether with a to do list or a story idea, helps lead to more writing. In the bullet journal, I give myself the freedom to let thoughts lead me. Sometimes, the road is a dead end. At other times, it’s a great adventure. That’s the life of a fiction writer with a writing day job!

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