TGIF, fellow writers!
This generation has got it good. We’re living in an amazing era of technological advancement and innovation. <cue curmudgeonly mentor voice> Why, back in my day, we didn’t have this, this Google, you speak of. Ever hear of a library catalogue? Familiar with the Dewey Decimal System?
Between that and waxing poetic on walking 15 miles to school through three foot snow drifts uphill–BOTH WAYS–in the dead of an extended Indian Summer, you get the idea, right? Information, these days, is truly at our fingertips.
So when we’re not typing various questionable entries into our trusty search engine, or bombarding Siri or Alexa with weather updates or what to make for dinner, what other methods do you resort to for information gathering?
BG (Before Google)
We didn’t always have the world at our fingertips. We literally had to do our own legwork. Libraries were, and still are, our brick and mortar haven for knowledge. Speaking of legwork, as long as we’re social distancing, there are benefits of going to the library for research or leisurely reading. Writing challenges and other literary enthusiasts will tell you to get butt in chair and write. However, we need to take breaks to stretch because the sedentary lifestyle isn’t doing us any favors.
That’s not to say that libraries are there just for research purposes. They have activities, events, and rooms to rent for private use, group chats (book clubs, writing clubs, etc.) I used to tutor students at the library, conducted business meetings, and even had documentary screenings with college organizations. There’s way more to a library than its book aisles. It’s like the world is at your fingertips–AND you’re amongst likeminded creatives. Libraries are among my most favorite places to visit.
I’ve experienced the most intriguing, and sometimes intensely WTF moments, by being adjacent to, or in the vicinity of the strange and otherworldly conversations that happen around me. Thanks for the (sometimes mind-boggling) entertainment, humanity.
Start off small. Coffeehouses, on the bus, at the mall, during a walk in the park. You name it, there are seeds of a story waiting to grow once the idea reaches the earshot of a writer. You’re surrounded by diverse groups of people from every age group, or a combination thereof. Many of my story ideas have begun this way. However, set the bar low. It might be strange, at times, but never boring. There’s plenty to hear, but some situations aren’t worth repeating. But, boy, when you do find that nugget, it’s hard not to run with it.
And who knows? On the way to the library, that walk/commute/drive might provide you with the much needed insight you’d been looking for. Or, you might find inspiration in the change of scenery, versus staring at a screen most of the day.
I may look to Google for an initial query, but oftentimes, when I know my topic could be tossed in a group post in a writing group, I look forward to that method of brainstorming. Give or take a few hours, to account for international time zone differences, there’s active real-time discussion that you couldn’t get from search engines or online wikis that are edited, at will. These discussions are shared amongst people with experience in that subject and who can add nuances to your topic based on their particular background and geographic location. Of late, my writing groups are online, but when it’s safe to do so again, in-person writing groups are fun and motivating, especially when you’re in exciting conversations or revved up to do writing sprints. Online or in-person, find your tribe.
Whether you go to Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram. Ideas are everywhere. There’s tumblr, Reddit, random memes. I use these as story prompts all the time, and they’re fun. Heck, you’ve seen a cornucopia of memes that I’ve included in my posts since I returned to my blog. They. Are. Everywhere. Ideas a-plenty. If not for a story prompt, use the visuals as inspiration for settings or actor pics as your character inspo.
Of course, we’ve got the ol’ standbys of books, television, and film. There are great (and not so great) stories out in the universe. As the reader/viewer, that perception is, of course, subjective. As a writer, however, these are extremely effective tools, because you can see final products out there in the world. You have the ability, along with the rest of the world, to determine what worked and what didn’t.
Just because an idea has been done before, that a story’s been done before, that shouldn’t deter you. Your idea, your story hasn’t been told yet because that’s uniquely you. You add the flavor and nuances from your own life experiences and knowledge that another writer can’t offer. You bring something new to the table. Remember, the majority of plot lines found in books, television, and film are also found in the bible. Brother against brother, massive calamity, plague, public persecution and discrimination. It’s all been brought up before. How will you take these ideas, some old, some outlandish, and create a fantastic read to share with the world?
Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.
Until next time,