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Sunday, December 13, 2009

How to Spark a Story:

Start by NOT writing it.

I meet lots of folks with a story, a song, a project tucked inside them, yet they they have not written it down or shared it. I do my best to nudge it out.

I'm a big champion of the "talent within." I have a belief that there is greatness, magic, power, and wisdom tucked within each of us. The alternative is to keep it bottled up. Sometimes bottled ideas ferment, but often they are not properly corked and they evaporate. Not good.

Writing it down, getting from inside to the outside, is not always easy.

That blank page can be daunting.

Sometimes words don't always flow easily.

I love the title of the Talking Heads' album: "Stop Making Sense." Too many of us feel the pressure of "getting it right." In a journal, you have permission to stop trying to make it all make sense.

The wonderful thing about journals is that they don't come with strict rules on what you put into them. Why not try a drawing? A simple doodle. A squiggly line. If the spirit moves you, you can a draw face, or a place, a dog, or a teacup or a suitcase. Go ahead and combine things that don't "make sense." The face could be peering from the suitcase. The dog could be sipping tea.

Can you begin to feel the story sparks fly?

Let art trigger words. It can be your doodle, drawing, painting, or paste in art you find in the world. I have a friend in Paris who sends me wonderful e-mails with barely a word... she just pastes in art she has found on her online museum wanderings.

In my own journals, I'll find myself drawing a line that turns into something. I am often surprised by the odd little scenes that emerge. A huge boat resting on a house. A girl painting the petals of a flower. A dog playing piano in the rain. They are images in search of their stories.

Don't feel pressure to have to find a story for every image. Some odd little scenes may be perfectly happy to just be odd little scenes camped out in your journal forever. Months later I may go back through my story-journals (I have stacks of them) and will see one of these scenes and it doesn't necessarily trigger a story, but rather a question.

"Who will the girl give that painted flower to?"

"Why is a dog playing a piano?"

"Is that tree reaching for the stars?"

My mind starts to explain these intriguing scenes. A story may follow.

I have a version of the old expression: "The story writes itself."

"The story paints itself."

Images ARE stories.

Stories are paintings.

Every word is a color waiting to be splashed on the blank canvas of your journal. Adjectives are vivid colors. Verbs are streaks of paint that add motion to the story. Nouns are dashes of light and dark making forms emerge.

Here's a little haiku I created:

The majestic sky.
Star, hung
silently, deep sigh.
Can't reach you. Too high.

Close your eyes and imagine it. Use the words to paint the image.

What color was the sky? Who was reaching for the star? What did the star look like? Were there other stars there?

Readers will add "frosting" effortlessly as the words are read and projected in the mind's cinema. How can that be? Creating images from words that are not even there? THAT is the magic about writing. Your words will not only paint the obvious images, but will also drum up the unpredicted, unique colors and shapes tucked in the minds of your readers.

Let art inspire your words.

Let words inspire art.

Go ahead. Paint yourself a story.


Renee Kurilla said...

It's good to have all of this in writing :) You're a huge inspiration to me as I continue to attempt writing my book. (hehe) Thanks for taking the time to put this post together!

Wendy said...

I adore this. And will be forwarding it to several people.

It also makes me think that a great Christmas present would be a journal, some watercolors and maybe a set of colored pencils, along with a link and/or a print out of this post- maybe glued on the inside of the journal.

Would you mind if I printed this out for gifts?

I'll have to remember it for next year or birthdays, though; this year I'm working on handmade portrait stamps for everyone.

Anyway, thanks for the inspiration. Your work is just lovely.

Peter H. Reynolds said...

Thanks, Renee! Cheering you on! And Wendy - please do share! Thanks for the kind words!

Jennifer @ OrangePolkaDot said...

Thank you for the inspiration. I find I have a conflict between the urge to write, draw, express, journal and the *perception* of perfection. I always put off my desire to write or journal because of a perfection excuse. Thank you for the encouragement to overcome the perception of perfection.

Jason Curtis said...

Your words fill me with enthusiasm and promise.

Thank you for taking the time to share Peter, this is a wonderful post.

Happy New Year (belated). Keep doing what you're doing.

Ann said...

What a wonderful concept and I just happen to have watercolors at home. Think I will give it a try and see where it leads. Thanks!

Jason Lethcoe said...

I love this post! This is just the kind of encouragement storytellers everywhere need to keep telling stories. I was feeling particularly overwhelmed as I was about to begin writing a third book in kids series I've been working on, but approaching the story this way will, I think, make the blank page less intimidating.

Thanks, Peter!

Anonymous said...

Exactly!!!! There ARE so many really great ideas inside each of us. Having a good book, a great expression tool and paper, and a kindred spirit or two go along way to seeing the idea grow and bloom. Awesome and a keeper! Thanks!