Image courtesy of digital art

     I really don’t know what it is about this time of the year that kicks my creativity into overdrive.  Maybe it is the four years of NaNoWriMo under my belt that make my brain associate fall weather with an increase in productivity.  Maybe it is the beauty of the changing leaves that inspires me.  Or maybe it is the coziness of being snuggled up under a warm blanket on a cold day that makes my heart want to warm the world with its creations.

     Whatever the cause, I embrace it.  It makes me want to take classes so that I can learn new skills that offer additional outlets.  My hands feel the need to create the things my mind can dream up; be it writing, baking, drawing, sewing, etc…  I’m not even good at all of those things, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to try.  I am proud to be a jack of all trades, even if I am a master of none.  What I do create often lacks polish, but it is an accomplishment nonetheless.  At the end of the day, I have made something where there once was nothing.  And with some things, the polish can be applied afterwards.  For other things, the lack of polish is what adds to its beauty.

     With that said, against my better judgement, knowing that I will not have the proper amount of time to dedicate to it, I have once again signed up for NaNoWriMo.  A story idea has come to mind, it is completely undeveloped and so I thought I could use NaNo to flesh out the story.  I don’t even have character names right now and normally, the characters are the first detail I have worked out before I begin.  This time, I have an idea for a setting and a plot.  I’m hoping that by working on those, the characters will slowly begin to introduce themselves.

Strategy: Something I am sorely lacking
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici

     Between my shortage of time and this scatterbrained approach, I’m not sure how far I will get this year, but maybe now that I have others that I can bounce ideas off of, I might actually be able to pull this off or at least end up with a great foundation for a new book.

     Once again, good luck to my fellow WriMos.  If you’d like to add me, my username is Ely64.

     A little over a year ago, I wrote a blog called Write What You Know, exploring the meaning behind the sage advice that many writers are given.  Delving a bit deeper into the topic, I’ve been thinking about just how this can be accomplished.  

     Great writing contains the perfect mix of truth and creativity.  This mix can be different for each writer and it is up to us to find the mix that works best.  I have said many times in the past that most of my writing is based in reality but there are always creative elements mixed in.  For other writers, their writing may be based on creativity with elements of reality mixed in, but there is always a mix of the two, even when it may not be evident to the reader.

     While working on my new short story compilation, a lot of the work is based on truths in my life or the lives of those around me.  Many things have been changed, left out, embellished or just plain made up.  Anyone who knows me well enough will be able to see some of the similarities between the stories and my life.  But even the people that know me best would not be able to tell without a shadow of a doubt, exactly what is true and what I created for the story.

     After sharing one of my earliest short stories with a friend, his response was, “Wow, that’s pretty personal, don’t you think?”  He was right of course, there was a lot in there that was highly personal to me, but that is what made the story work.  My pain and confusion was easily felt by the reader because it was something that I understood whole-heartedly and could convey to the reader quite clearly.

     While, at times, I quite literally write what I know (variations of experiences that I have had in my life), I get to change the experiences to suit my needs.  Have you ever had an argument with someone and later thought of things that you wished you had said?  Why not include that argument in your work and change it so that the argument goes the way you wish it had?

     Now that you get the picture of how writing based in reality is infused with creative elements, you might be asking how creative works are infused with reality.  Sci-fi and fantasy stories are perfect examples.  Think about Star Wars.  The places, people and in some cases, even the languages were completely invented leaving little doubt that the events in the story never took place in the real world.  So where is the reality in this, you might be asking.  It is infused in the emotion of the characters and even how they interact with one another.

     When creating a completely fictional scenario, an author can make it real by having the characters react and behave the same way the author or someone they know would behave in a similar situation.  Emotions are the realest, truest experience that can be the difference between a reader connecting to a character and being indifferent towards them.

     What mix of reality and creativity works for you?

Image courtesy of Michal Marcol

     Last night, my goal was to get home from work, set my laptop up in my office away from distractions and sit down to write.  Despite my determination to get a significant amount of writing done, I didn’t get a single word written.  I know you probably think I got distracted by the internet, but that’s not the case at all.  Instead, I got brain freeze, literally.  My apartment was so cold that I couldn’t focus on anything but how cold I was, my mind (and limbs) were numb.  With no control over the air conditioning, I opened the windows to try to let in some warmth, but to my dismay, it was the same temperature outside as it was inside offering no relief.

     I tried to push through and got so far as to setting up the laptop and changing into sweats, a long sleeved shirt and long slipper socks to try to thaw out.  That still didn’t do the trick.  So I then had to climb into bed and curl up under the covers.  I kept glancing over to my office, longing to be able to sit in there and write, but it was just so cold.  I even made an attempt to use my Nook and stylus to do some writing, but didn’t get very far.

     This got me to thinking, how big of a role does our environment play in our ability to write and how much of it is just another excuse?  Personally, other than situations like last night, where the conditions are to the extreme, I don’t have a “perfect” writing environment, one in which I cannot write unless everything is just so.  Sure, I would love it if I could do my writing in some tropical paradise while soaking up the sun on a beach or at a desk in front of a wide open window where the warm breeze carries the sounds and scents of the beautiful blue ocean just outside.  But let’s get real, the bills need to get paid, which means I need to be at work earning a paycheck so I don’t have time to be lounging on beautiful beaches.  And unless I marry rich, that is not a scenario that is likely to happen anytime in my near future.  In the meantime, I just need to suck it up and get my writing done anywhere I can.

     Naturally, I hit the internet in search of answers.  Do some people find certain environments more conducive to their writing?  If so, am I missing out on something that could potentially increase my word count each time I set out to write?  Or am I already doing what I can by just jotting things down anytime inspiration strikes, whether it be a five minute session or five hours?  There really weren’t too many articles out there on the subject as many dealt more with software related environments rather than actual physical environments.  But I did come across two blogs, with two very different opinions, each of which I can relate to for different reasons.

     The first is a blog by Chris Brogan, that debunks the “myth” of the perfect writing environment.  In his blog, Chris advises that writing can be done anywhere.  If you are truly serious about being a writer, you won’t let things like your surroundings or the tools at your disposal become an excuse for why you can or cannot write.  Much like the advice you find anywhere you look, Chris says, just write!  I know that from time to time, I personally fall into that trap, “I want to write, but I would get more done on my laptop, blah, blah, blah…”  There is a very real distinction between not wanting to write and not being able to write.

     The other is a blog by The Writing Whisperer, M. Shannon Hernandez (no relation), that describes how you can transform your ordinary writing space/office into your ideal writing environment.  She invites you to think about where you would feel most productive and visual that space, transporting yourself to that very place.  That shouldn’t be too difficult for a fiction writer, right?  I mean, that’s what we do.  We visualize people we’ve never met and create worlds and/or experiences that we have never had (or variations of ones we have) and put these visions together to create our stories.  So why not use that same power of imagination and creativity to envision ourselves in our perfect writing environment no matter where we actually are?

Can you picture yourself writing at a Parisian bistro?
Image courtesy of artur84

Or maybe in a secluded cabin on the snow covered mountains?
Image courtesy of Michal Marcol

      Do you have a specific environment that you find particularly conducive to your writing?  Do you agree with Chris that a perfect writing environment is nothing more than an excuse for why we don’t write rather than why we can’t?  Do you think The Writing Whisperer’s advice would help put you in the right mindset to write more?  Or do you have tricks of your own that help you overcome the distractions of your writing environment?