Have you walked face-first into a wall lately? Not heard a single word your partner said? Suddenly realized an hour has gone by and you’ve done nothing but sat there smirking or crying or staring at the carpet?
This isn’t a writing tips ‘n’ tricks post. Well, maybe it’s a trick since the title is deceptive. Nah, I’m just thinking out loud—I mean in Google Docs.
This easily could have been a writing tips ‘n’ tricks post. I put out plenty of those. And sure, they can be helpful. Rather, consuming lots and lots of writing advice from multiple sources can help a writer gain a more solid understanding of how to write.
But it’s not really the content you’re absorbing that helps you. It’s the practice of committing your brainpower, your energy, your soul to the thing. Reading, writing, thinking about writing, talking about writing, listening to others talk about writing, fantasizing about having written something. Tips ‘n’ tricks are like flakes of gold in a stream. You won’t get much out of any given piece you pick up, but finding enough of them can help you track down the big strike.
One thing I’ve found from working with lots of writers is that the average writer is technically competent. The average writer knows how to do words. So what, I’ve been wondering, makes an exceptional book (by my subjective standards)?
I think—though I’m not going to marry this opinion and have its babies—that an exceptional book is the result of an exceptional imagination.
We talk a lot about editing, editing, editing in the hashtag writing community, and that’s great. But the most overlooked, underrated, underappreciated asset to a writer is their imagination. Imagination is what inspires a writer, and an inspired writer will see through the fog of their own vision and intuitively know how to develop the characters, make the setting vivid, make the pace and structure bend to their will, make all the right moments punch the reader in the gut or wipe away their tears, etcetera, etcetera.
I think imagination is like a muscle. You have to exercise it. You have to spend the time thinking and daydreaming and exploring your story’s world in your head. You have to treat the story like clay, be willing to reshape any and all of it. Imagine what would happen if you made some change you don’t want to make. If you started your story not earlier or later but differently. If you gave your character a secret that you never reveal to the reader. If you threw a dart into your manuscript and inserted a new problem for your protagonist that requires reshaping everything that follows.
I’m not saying do those things. I’m just saying imagine those things. I guarantee it’ll solve problems you didn’t even know were there.
Disclaimer: Don’t listen to me. I just made all this up. Stay tuned for more writing tips ‘n’ tricks.
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