One year ago I turned a corner with my writing. I went from someone who’s always written, to someone who writes every day.
At that time, my major inspiration was the science fiction writer Ray Bradbury. I watched a brilliant speech on youtube, a lecture that Bradbury gave to a group of college kids, that forever changed my thinking about writing stories…
Bradbury said that a novel is a big project. If you are a young aspiring writer, don’t try and write a novel. Odds are you’ll just get discouraged and quit. Instead, decide that you’re going to write one short story every week. At the end of the year, you’ll have 52 short stories. Most of those short stories will be bad, but a few of them won’t. And that’s a start.
Mostly this lesson taught me to write and not look back. There’s no time for editing, only writing the next thing.
A year later I’m feeling stuck and searching for more inspiration, and it’s Bradbury, again, who I stumble across.
Bradbury talks about how, in his early twenties while he was writing short stories, he began a new creative practice. He started making long lists of nouns to trigger his creative brain.
His lists went something like this…
THE LAKE. THE NIGHT. THE CRICKETS. THE RAVINE. THE ATTIC. THE BASEMENT. THE TRAPDOOR. THE BABY. THE CROWD. THE NIGHT TRAIN. THE FOG HORN. THE SCYTHE. THE CARNIVAL. THE CAROUSEL. THE DWARF. THE MIRROR MAZE. THE SKELETON.
He goes on to describe how these lists of nouns helped him discover the magic in his unconscious brain, they were a way to “feel your way toward something honest, hidden under the trapdoor on the top of your skull.”
After making these lists, Bradbury would pick a word and start writing an essay about it. During his writing he would figure out why that word was so important to him. Characters would emerge in his essays, and then the job became, let those characters free and see where they take the story.
I’m not so optimistic that my essays will turn into great stories. But it sounds like a wonderful practice to keep the words and thoughts flowing.
I haven’t tried it yet. I’m about to. As soon as I publish this post.
Here’s my first list,
The Soccer Field. The Tree Fort. The River. Diner Chairs. The Sleeping Bag. Honeybees. Trees at Night. Rain Coat. Empty Parking Lots. New World. Wooden Sword. The Ladder. The Hammer. The Wolf. Binoculars. Shivers. Slivers. Time Capsules. Sweat. The Deep End. Explorers. Summer. Carpet. Rain on Windows. Cafes. Sidewalks. Kitchen Table. Envelope.