I have a list on my wall of things to do when the days of empty pages hit. I’ve adapted it a little so that it makes sense here, but basically, this is it. If you have any suggestions of what I could add, I’d love to hear them.
Write. Stop worrying and write. There will be time for editing later. Write as much as you can, about as many different things as you can, as often as you can.
Be curious. Ask people for their stories. Listen and watch.
Go to beautiful, strange places. (Here’s one I go to sometimes - on Julia DeVille’s website click on taxidermy, birds and then sympathy. Write for fifteen or twenty minutes about the image. Don’t self edit.) If taxidermy isn’t your thing, choose another picture that speaks to you. Choose a word in a poem, in a book. Choose a piece of sky.
Find the beautiful, strange places in yourself and have the courage to write about them.
Go on adventures. (Last year, a good friend set up a word hunt for me in the State Library. There were quotes I’d never read, waiting in books on every level. I wrote about it for days.)
“Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows.”
Keep a book of tiny details. Notice the wire that’s shaped like a heart, the words that you see on a wall or the way a person’s hands move.
Keep a list of loved words.
Cut up the list, every now and then. Mix the words around to see if any sound really interesting together (adrift bones, almond clouds, ash kisses).
Get close to your characters. When you’re standing as close as you think you can get to them, stand even closer.
Analyze dialogue. Look at the conflict, the humor and the pace. Look at what’s said and what’s left unsaid.
Record your work during editing. Listen for repeated words, clichés, weak verbs and when you hear them, cut them out.
Have something to say. Say it.
Know that writing is hard. Sometimes you’ll get it right but more often than that you’ll get it wrong and that’s actually okay.
On days when you have nothing for the page go to places like Meg Rosoff’s blog. It will make you feel less alone. If you’re feeling really bad then go straight to this page and read Dorothy Parker’s telegram to her editor. “All I have is a pile of paper covered with the wrong words.”
Eat dumplings with your writing group and talk about ideas.
Remind yourself every day, every day, why it is that you love words.