Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Accidental Inspiration

I go to other artists for inspiration to move my writing along. Sometimes for technique, sometimes for ideas and sometimes, just to get my bum in the writing chair. I was researching something this morning and found these wonderful quotes by Isabel Allende on Brain Pickings

This one inspires me to get to my writing even when I’m not in the mood:

I start all my books on January eighth. Can you imagine January seventh? It’s hell. Every year on January seventh, I prepare my physical space. I clean up everything from my other books. I just leave my dictionaries, and my first editions, and the research materials for the new one. And then on January eighth I walk seventeen steps from the kitchen to the little pool house that is my office. It’s like a journey to another world. It’s winter, it’s raining usually. I go with my umbrella and the dog following me. From those seventeen steps on, I am in another world and I am another person. I go there scared. And excited. And disappointed — because I have a sort of idea that isn’t really an idea. The first two, three, four weeks are wasted. I just show up in front of the computer. Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too. If she doesn’t show up invited, eventually she just shows up.” 

This one reminds me to use economy of language:

I try to write beautifully, but accessibly. In the romance languages, Spanish, French, Italian, there’s a flowery way of saying things that does not exist in English. My husband says he can always tell when he gets a letter in Spanish: the envelope is heavy. In English a letter is a paragraph. You go straight to the point. In Spanish that’s impolite. Reading in English, living in English, has taught me to make language as beautiful as possible, but precise. Excessive adjectives, excessive description — skip it, it’s unnecessary. Speaking English has made my writing less cluttered. I try to read House of the Spirits now, and I can’t. Oh my God, so many adjectives! Why? Just use one good noun instead of three adjectives.

And here is wonderful advice for new and well established writers (something my last editor reminded me to do more of):

It’s worth the work to find the precise word that will create a feeling or describe a situation. Use a thesaurus, use your imagination, scratch your head until it comes to you, but find the right word.

When you feel the story is beginning to pick up rhythm—the characters are shaping up, you can see them, you can hear their voices, and they do things that you haven’t planned, things you couldn’t have imagined—then you know the book is somewhere, and you just have to find it, and bring it, word by word, into this world.

When you tell a story in the kitchen to a friend, it’s full of mistakes and repetitions. It’s good to avoid that in literature, but still, a story should feel like a conversation. It’s not a lecture.

Because I’m often inspired by the quotes of other artists, I put together a journal with the quotes of writers, artists and musicians; one for each of 30 days. A perfect gift for those who like to put pen to paper. It’s light and handy for those ideas that come at odd moments.It's on Amazon.

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Fred R Rodriguez said...

Who would have thought that posting a comment would be harder than writing a novel? I guess that writing a first draft that no one would see is easier than leaving this for you and the world. In Feb of 2010 I realized that I wasn't going to die after all and I should do some of the things that I always wanted to do like be a writer/story teller. I got steno pads and pens and decided that I would write the worst book ever and let my mind go. I decided on a character, his name, and what I wanted him to be. Thirty days later in March I got out I got out of the hospital with a 116000+ novel. I worked on the story line and cleaned it up. After I typed it I put it on hold and worked on some others. I recently dug it up from depths of my computer and reread it. It made me cry in parts and laugh in others. I need to find an agent. My inspiration is just go ahead and let the character tell the story just carry a pad with you and write when you get a moment. I even wrote pages while waiting for food to be served. I suggest a pad because it is to easy to hit delete. Many times the words I write end up else where in the story. I hope this helps someone somewhere someday.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Fred and Cora. Your words are very inspiring. So is your gift idea, Cora.