Notes on where ideas come from 3 – Or when they don’t

(Image courtesy of Microsoft clipart)

(Image courtesy of Microsoft clipart)

A relatively short post for you today – It is not un-common for me to have a bunch of draft posts waiting to happen, or waiting to be completed, and posted. Some I might work on from time to time over a few weeks, others I will just pick up and complete. When it came to completing a post for this friday, I was completely uninspired. Nothing I had in the drafts I fancied picking up on. Nothing new was coming to mind. I had not had much time to work on blog this week, I thought about giving this friday’s post a miss. This was wednesday evening.

Thursday lunchtime I still did not seem too inspired, but I figured I could write a short post on being uninspired. Then I realized that fit in with the “ideas” posts, and suddenly I did have a post. You see, thinking about writing this topic, in this context, sparked something. It is a process of generating connections. Once you have a connection, an idea or two, and a context, then following the trail of more connections can begin. It may be something small or lead to something large, but where you choose to take it, is up to you.

So my question to you is, what do you do when feeling completely uninspired, but still want to put something out there? What gets you going / motivated?

In other news, whilst I have not been blog inspired over the last few days, I have had an idea for a bunch of small stories, which are just daft things, but may well make for an interesting experience on the blog. Well an interesting learning experience for me. They follow the adventures of one character trapped in a daft sci-fi scenario, but don’t worry, it isn’t too geeky, and is more humorous. I think I may develop this some more then see what I can come up with. Hopefully they will make for good reading.

Lexicon word of the day: Provenience (US) Provenance (UK).


Notes on where ideas come from part 2, – focus

I’m posting this on Thursday this week, instead of Friday, where in the US it is Thanksgiving. So happy Thanksgiving to the US folks. For those readers who like notebooks, check out the picture of this notebook that my wife got me as part of my birthday gift last week. It has the brainsplats blog on it. I thought it was a good idea. Now it just needs notes in it. More on that below.

Its the blog notebook 🙂

Where ideas come from is interesting to me right now, as I have more time for ideas, and more ideas, then time to deal with the ideas themselves. Often in the past it has been the reverse. I could sit down to write, but not be sure what to get on with, or what to write about. I would hope inspiration would strike. Now the ideas are flowing which I believe is for several reasons. The first that I used to write this blog daily, so my mind is kind of in the routine still of regular ideas for blog posts, especially now I am only averaging two posts a week. The other is that with restricted time, I use a spare 5 or 10 minutes for something constructive. Forcing myself into a time limit exercise, somehow stops my mind wandering and instead has focus, in turn opening up ideas. Take these three scenarios:
  1.  I’ve mentioned before, my wife and I take it in turns on alternating nights to read books  to my son, and put him to bed. He used to be slightly fussy getting to sleep, because of his age, so we would hang round in his room for a little while whilst he settled down. I would use this time, lets say 10 minutes, or a little longer, to think about story ideas, that I would then note down after I left the room. One time I had an idea for a short story collection with a common theme. I thought about different story ideas, using this time, over a month, and now I have notes enough for a whole book. When I write the stories of course. This time worked well. Now though, my son is settling down a lot quicker, so I am out of there a lot quicker. Perhaps I still need to find this 10 minutes elsewhere.
  2. Slightly related to this point is choosing a spare five minutes during the day. Just find a quiet place. Decide whether to write down blog ideas, perhaps of a certain kind, for me like “Monday Mess”, or something else such as story ideas. Just put down what you can, and only for the five minutes. Again the focus is interesting and I seem to be able to get things down. Not all of it useful, but most of it is. Maybe ideas are floating round my head waiting for the focus opportunity, I don’t know, but either way it seems to work.
  3. I sometimes do 100 word fiction, such as “Jack and the beanstalk revised“, where I will get a prompt about something, maybe an idea I’ve been thinking a little about, may not. Then I will take a max of thirty minutes to write something in the word limit, with no revision allowed after the time limit. Sometimes I may have an idea of what I am wanting to write about in terms of the actual mini story, other times no idea. But the time limit brings focus and I can normally get something out, which is coherent and sometimes interesting. It is as though, with the time limit, I can find an angle or a way to investigate

So I suppose what I am getting at here is that ideas freely float round our heads. Especially those of us who consider ourselves creative in some way. Getting the ideas out and turning them into something can be difficult. A little focus for a short period of time, can actually go a long way. Maybe I can add some of these notes in my new notebook.

What focus exercises do you do, if any, to work on ideas?

Lexicon word of the day: ethnography.

Short Fiction – The unusual map

Two things changed my original idea for this Friday’s post. On Tuesday I went to see Bon Mould play in L.A. where he did a complete run through of the album “Copper Blue”, which he recorded under the band name “Sugar”. This album, one of my all time favorites, meant I was really looking forward to it. He also played some of the new album and a few other “oldies” of his. I had never seen him live before, I loved it. The band played really well. Hearing a complete run through of Copper Blue live was, well, worth the wait. For me anyway. It made me want to use it in some small way.

Last Tuesday night at the El Rey

My original idea for this post was to write another 100 word fiction. However the second thing that changed the post, was the idea of writing a short story to tie in with another post I am going to put up soon. I think the gig more tied in with doing that post, than this one. It is a post I thought of a few months back, but had not gotten round to write yet. More on that idea at the end. It was however, clear then that 100 words were not nearly enough for the short story. I think this one ended at 300+ words so it is still a short read, but way over the 100 word exercise. I did this in about 30 mins so apologies if it needs a few corrections.

The Unusual Map

In the moonlight, the Man stood for a moment, closed his eyes, and cast out his net. He took a deep breath, then with a flash of light, it began. For he was not a normal man, and this was not a net of rope and hole. He was what is known to some, as a net-caster. He who saw things in a different way. His cast, a net that could attract unusual maps and people. You might call these music maps if it helps you understand. They can tell you a lot about a person, their stories mostly, how these songs attach to people. These things being what he existed for.

A few seconds later, he withdrew to check if it was working, and to see if there were any bites. Already there were. Adjusting a frequency, like you might tune a radio, he found a track called “Changes” by a band called “Sugar”, and he found a young man attached to it. A rock band, a young man beginning to find his identity, nothing unusual there. Tapping a slender Index finger on his chin, the net-caster ran his eyes over the map. The young man was not young anymore, and there was much more to his story. He hung this map up on his review board. It would require more time and effort later. For now in his net, there was a map seemingly incomplete.

Louis Armstrong’s “Wonderful world” was a destination on many maps, yet this one very significant. A man called Lewis, 27 years old with bad ideas. He wanted to try many things once, odd things like jump from a plane, and attach this song as a soundtrack. One of these bad ideas was to enter a freeway exit the wrong way. To the net-caster this seemed especially strange as there did not seem to be a plan for how he might turn around again. As it turned out, there wasn’t. Lewis hit another car head on. As the map demonstrated “A wonderful world” linked to many of his daft ideas, his life events, to his end, and ironically, his funeral. Lady Gaga’s “Poker face” was the end for the two people he hit head on with his car. The net-caster did not know what to make of this. You often do not choose what fits on a map, but that is what it is.

The net-caster thought humans were strange sometimes. Like the way they describe the reflected light from the moon as cold.

The post this links to, or should I say will link to, is themed around how certain music tracks are linked to you, through certain events in your life. They may not always seem significant. They may not be things you would necessarily choose, but nevertheless they are there. You will hear the song, it puts you in a particular place. The post looks at this from the other side. I will likely put it up next friday.

Lexicon word of the day: oniochalasia. Registered & Protected

Poem – in a room

(Image Source: Microsoft Clip art)

I seem to like the 15 minute exercise of writing a poem in, well, in 15 minutes. I have done several others, the last being “Knights & Demons“. Here is another. I had the prompt idea of a man in a room, and below is what I came up with within the alloted time limit. The title came with it, although that part didn’t take much brain stretching. More a Brain splat. Oh yeah, the name of the blog. See it all clicks into place. Sort of.

The blurb around the poem, i.e. this, was not included in the 15 minutes.

in a room

in a room somewhere sits a man
staring through four grey walls
wondering why he exists here, and waiting
for the call that will come
to tell him if he won, and escaped

in a musty room sits a man, who taps a table
with a left index finger
pushing buttons in his mind
such unease in his stomach
tells a story of why he wants to leave
when his money is in the square box
and the odds are against him
it is all in to win

In a room sits a man
who turns to face another wall
and stares straight through

So there it is. Not sure what to make of this now. I may revisit in a few weeks and rethink. Any thoughts?
Lexicon word of the day: pedagogic.

Notes on where ideas come from – 1

This is the crux of writing isn’t it? Well creative writing, fiction, poems and the like. Generating ideas and turning it into a “something”. This is one of those things that sets us apart from other animals, in that we can get ideas beyond our instant needs or requirements, and take them somewhere. Build them into a different thing. Something that speaks to our minds, or if you want to put it this way, our hearts and souls. Fundamentally, writing about “a something” derives from two functions. Having an idea, and the ability to turn that idea into that which communicates with people. Both can be tough. Especially the first part.

In having less time to spend on writing lately, I’ve begun to evaluate the different facets of it, and how I do it. What are my strengths? What works for me? What doesn’t work for me? These are the sort of questions I’m asking. Ideas might be examined in different forms. For simplicity, I first thought about the context of smaller projects, with the initial idea as it appears, and a little on how that idea is expanded on.

(Image Source: Microsoft Clip art)

I’ve been asked a few times about how I work the 15 minute poem exercise, which is not to say I am an expert, but that the results, for the allotted time, have been decent, at least on some occasions. Or at least interesting on some occasions. For me it is a fun exercise, which involves some focus, but also allows the dropping of some boundaries, which in real terms means, “opens up the subject matter which I can write about, to anything”. Usually I do not sit at the notebook / blog with entirely a blank slate. I will usually have a prompt first. This prompt comes from many places. It might be a phrase I read, the name of a book or song, or the name of an episode of a tv show. Regular readers will know that I took got two poems from the name of an episode of the eighties animated show “Spiderman and friends”. The first because I misheard the name of the episode, and the second where I then decided to use the correct name.

Having the prompt, I then can begin. Sometimes I have the prompt for several hours prior to the writing, during which I might (or might not) think of the odd idea. I try not to think of actual lines of the poem unless a strong line pops into my head, mainly because I like the exercise of doing it at the time, within the time limit. Other times, I just have the prompt only, and sit down to begin.

With that in mind, I will then think for a minute or two, usually not more, of what the prompt might mean to me, or what might be a good angle to approach it. For example with the prompt “Knights and Demons“, It made me think of what might make a person be a knight, and head off from there. The line with the naughty word pretty much appeared at the beginning so that set a tone. Married with the other idea, I set off to see what came out. In this instance, I did not want to tell a direct story such as a knight vs a specific demon, but that was where I was at the time. Another day another idea. Possibly.

To me it seems odd, but quite quickly I normally have an idea or two for a mini story (which may be a story thematically), and the means to tell it is then spread across how many verses it may be. For example, I might be thinking of four or five verses of four lines. Perhaps each line has a certain amount of syllables. Or perhaps I want a couple of large verses. It depends what I feel at the time, so I write to that. Maybe add or remove a verse, change up some words here or there, occasionally change the structure as something better has come out. I think of the main beats of the story and map it to the verses. For example, verse one the character asks a question or has a revelation. Verse two, something that relates to it. The final verse, adds a conclusion or switches it by asking a further question. And that is pretty much it. Working to the time limit I can “hit the story” pretty quickly. So far I don’t feel I have anything unfinished, although I do think on some I could add more if I wished to do so. A sort of directors cut.

Thinking about this now, I do not know why this works for me. My mind doesn’t go blank, I have virtually the opposite of a blank slate. If this was a larger project, I would dawdle along. Perhaps it is the allotted time limit. Perhaps I need to start doing things like this on my larger projects e.g. 15 minutes on ideas only. 15 minutes on the specifics of a scene. Something to experiment with? Perhaps.

Where do your ideas start from on smaller projects, e.g. poems, short fiction or blog pieces (I will save longer fiction for another time)?

Lexicon word of the day: parsimonious.

Poem – Knights and Demons

(Image Source: Microsoft Clip art)

A few weeks ago, I wrote a poem using a 15 minute deadline, called “Nights and Demons“. I thought it turned out quite well. However I had actually misheard the prompt idea, which was “knights and demons”, which was no big deal, but naturally I figured that I should give that a go as well.

So here it is, again with a 15 minute time limit to see what I can come up with:

Knights and Demons

When he rode upon the beast he stopped
And looked, with amazement said
“F*ck me, that is a big beast”
And it was
And he didn’t know what to do
And he thought he might die this time

When he first rode over a hill
And saw his first dark creature
It popped his cherry with a well received lance
And it did
cover him in a release of blood
And he thought this might be the birth of him

When he was received as a knight of the realm
And became the shield against demons
He wondered in which pungent place
And why it was
that he chose to live his life this way
and he didn’t say no

When he was asked why he chose to kill to live
and he did not know what to say
he merely considered it being told
and a man must make choices
and it was
and it did

When he rode nearer the beast he stopped
and thought of all of those things
then he paused to observe
and he came up with a plan
that is what a good knight does
and this knight, he faced the demon

This might have been a few minutes over 15 in truth, but not many more. Actually I quite like this one. It seems interesting to me. But I can also think of some improvements. What do you think?

Lexicon word of the day: ductility.

Poem – Nights and Demons

(Source: Microsoft Clip art)

The new paying gig is leaving me a bit stretched for time this week, and likely for the next few weeks. I’m also limited in internet connectivity during the day, well weekdays anyway, though this may change in a few weeks time. In the meantime, this is something I did last weekend. This is a poem where I took a prompt, and wanted to see what I could come up with in just 15 minutes. The prompt came from an episode of “Spiderman and friends” (probably best not to ask) called “Knights and Demons” which I misunderstood to be “Nights and Demons”. The latter was good enough, so I used that. Honestly, this is 15 mins of work, which you might be able to tell (which is where “lol” would be appropriate), but I was interested to see what came out. So here it is:

Nights and Demons

What did they say about night?
other than it was black and cold
that it was best to sleep then
and to avoid alleyways

That is what they say
but they do not know
that black is when no light reflects
when the mind wanders
and the demons come out

They say you jump at your own shadow
but I don’t know how, when there isn’t one there
when you cannot see much in front of your face
but you let your mind inhabit that space

Night is when I feel uneasy
when I cannot sleep, but my sensibility does
I realise my problems are much larger
and I left a door unlocked, I think

They say night is just quiet
but no-one told that dog
he says the monster is round the corner
like when the mind wanders
and the demons come out

The tone of this appears to be ever so slightly influenced by Kurt Vonnegut’s book “Slaughterhouse five or The Children’s Crusade”, which I have recently read (a recommended classic if you have never read it). Honest opinion, not bad for 15 minutes work, and a good writing exercise.

As a side note, I know of a few people who read my blog from time to time who claim they could never do this or the 100 word fiction. I would say in reply to that, that I had much the same opinion just nine months ago. But I also say to have a go on your own time, even if you keep it to yourself. It is a good, short exercise, and you might surprise yourself.

Lexicon word of the day: approbation.