Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Best Writing Advice Ever

The best writing advice I’ve ever heard sounds pretty simple: write down at least 10 things that you notice every day. And “notice” can be broadly defined—everything from something that catches your eye, like a piece of clothing, to the way a person walks across a crosswalk.

But, if you’re like me, it’s not so easy—you search for something you don’t normally see, and, at first, that can be hard. You want to be inspired by the world around you. You search for the extra-ordinary in the ordinary. And the more you search, the harder—you realize—it is to find.

Trust me, though. Start writing down the things you notice, strive to make it up to ten things a day, and if you keep it up, day after day, it’ll become easier. You’ll become more attuned to those pieces of extra-ordinary in the world.

And why is this the best piece of writing advice I’ve ever received? Because, it is often the “things” that I notice that end up being the impetus for a story; from one image springs an entire character’s history, as well as their current dilemma. For example, in my short story, Anatomy of a Heart, Lisa struggles with the recent breakup with her boyfriend, who is now in a coma after being in a car accident. As she drives away from the hospital, a heart drawn on her car windshield catches her eye, and she begins to imagine that this “heart” is his last gift to her. The story began with the image of the heart on the windshield.

Or take my novel-in-progress as an example. I learned about Charlotte Corday in a footnote in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. From those short two sentences sprung a curiosity that has driven the past year and a half of research and writing that is resulting in Through Charlotte's Eyes.

Granted, from these images, from these “noticeables” as I like to call them, I don’t always get a story, nor can I ever predict where the image will take me. But then again, that’s the nature of “noticing”—you never know where it will take you.

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