Thursday, September 21, 2006

Pick a Word

By Nichole Giles

I’ve heard it said that a bad page is easier to fix than a blank page. I’ve found this statement to be inherently true. A bad page can be picked apart, analyzed, rearranged, and rewritten until it is far from bad, and possibly even publishable. A blank page cannot.

The trick is turning that blank page into a bad one, thus beginning the cycle of cut, paste, and delete.

I’ve heard writers who have despaired the workings of their own brilliant minds. “I’ve got nothing,” they say, and then close the document, or notebook, and turn away, hoping to be struck by inspiration that will chase away the blank page blues. The problem with waiting is that while inspiration does occasionally strike in that very manner, more often it is the writer who stirs it up.

A neighbor recently asked me, “Where do you get your ideas? How do you know what to write about?” I could think of so many answers to her question, and at the same time, none. It made me wonder, “Where do I get my ideas?”

I get them from life. Every day, I wake up and face a world full of hardship and sorrow, triumph and joy, laughter and happiness. The newspaper and the television are full of unbelievable stories and strange happenings. When one stirs me, I write it down. Eventually, I’ll use it for something.

But on the days when I feel like “I’ve got nothing,” I pick a word. It could be a title, a subject, a feeling, or a thought. It doesn’t matter how it starts, as long as you focus on what that one word makes you think about. Take that word, and turn it into a paragraph, then two, and then a page.

There are days when a page is all I get, and that’s okay. The point is on a day when I had nothing, I wrote a whole page more than I would have written if I had shut down and waited for inspiration to strike. Occasionally, the pages started by one word turn out to be usable work. Sometimes it is even good. Someday the pages I haven’t already found a use for will be the inspiration for something else. Continuing the inspirational cycle I started without any inspiration at all.

Imagine the ideas I get from an entire page of ramblings. One piece of writing often inspires the next, and the next, and the next…all because I determined to pick one word.


KB said...

Great post. I've done that too. I was working on a novel once and couldn't get it to gel together. In the meantime, I was just doing stream of consciousness writing. One morning I wrote a phrase and all of a sudden my main character in the novel clicked in my head. That random phrase was the key to her personality and her motivation.

Nichole Giles said...

Thanks for the comment, KB. I have found that my conciousness writing can be a great source of insight into characters. I have also been inspired to write several short stories from these random writings. Sometimes, we are our own inspiration.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Sometimes when I'm filling up a page with bad writing and planning to go back and fix it, I'll find that it wasn't as bad as I thought it was. I think we tend to be way too hard on ourselves and should just write without judging ourselves.

Nichole Giles said...

Yes Tristi. I have done that as well. That is another good way to look at it. Thanks for the comments!