Help! I’m Drowning In Ideas!

Help! I’m suffering an explosion of creativity and I can’t seem to stop myself finding time and ideas for writing!

How It All Began

One recent evening I tucked myself into my armchair, put my feet up, pulled my knitting on to my lap and settled down in the flickering black and white light coming from my television as we fired up a couple of episodes of The Twilight Zone — our nightly non-guilty pleasure.

I love The Twilight Zone. The stories are so imaginative, they’re not afraid to take a dark turn (!); they’re stylish, well-crafted and intellectually stimulating.

I’ve been telling myself that they’re great research for my own story telling efforts.

And in a way they are. They’re all about a character (often a man, aged 36, oddly enough) who needs something, lacks something, wants something. Great stuff for storytellers.

But at the end of every Season 1 episode, I keep seeing this little line of text that makes me uneasy.

The line?

“Based on the short story…”

Short Stories Are Not Screenplays

I follow a lot of working writers’ blogs, but people who are getting paid to write the equivalent of short stories now are often working in TV. The influences they cite are other TV shows and writers. I follow those links and spend hours reading about how those other writers write and find success.

But I’m not writing screenplays. I need to remind myself how to show a scene in words, not images.

So I’ve embarked on another challenge (you know how I love a challenge, right?) and I invite you to come along with me.

Following Ray Bradbury’s prescription for writers (watch it here. It’s worth the time) I’m trying to read a short story every day, especially those from the late 19th and early 20th centuries — stories with some staying-power. I’m also trying to read one essay a day (though accessible, classic essays are proving harder to find than good short stories) and one poem a day (oddly enough, though poems are shorter, I’m finding it harder to rouse myself to do this part of the program).

The Results Are In

I’ve been doing this for just over a week and, as I said, I’ve been ‘suffering’ under an explosion of creativity. I’ve written one, long-for-me, 6,000 word short story and sketched out ideas for more than 50 more (yes, 5-0!) in a few different themes/genres, started my second story and written four blog posts.

And my kids are on vacation!

But I can’t seem to stop myself finding time to read and write.

I’ve rediscovered the joy of both reading and writing. I’m sneaking off, staying up late, ignoring people I love, to read — and little of it is on Facebook or Feedly or Twitter. I’m reading well-crafted fiction and non-fiction that has stood the test of time. And I’m bursting with ideas, references and imagery — I’m so full of ideas that I can’t hold them back. I simply have to write. (This is not always the case with me. I always feel better when I’m writing but I’m quite good at being lazy and grumpy instead).

Want to join me in being more creative, more productive, and more joyful? Start reading and writing today!

Here are some of the books I’m using to find short stories, poetry, essays and other inspiring non-fiction to read.

4 thoughts on “Help! I’m Drowning In Ideas!”

  1. Julie Ann–Just stumbled over your site…hmmm..not even sure how. A few minutes when I’m supposed to be packing for vacation and instead am cruising links from other writing sites and here I landed. Thankful that it’s a long, long time till May, so I can let myself get used to that crazy notion.

    In the meantime, loved and recognized the feeling behind this post. It’s amazing how reading wonderful writing inspires our own writing. Feels a little bit like magic, and a little bit like following a simple recipe. Read this, mix in five minutes of staring into space, add water and Abracadabra, it’s a story or a poem or just a tantalizing bit of writing from….well, who knows where it’s from?!

    Thank you for sharing the books that have been revving your writing motor. Here are a few that have been doing the same for me…

    Poems/Poets: Swimming Lessons, by Nancy Willard; The Floating Bridge, by David Shumate; anything by Mary Oliver.

    Essays: Nine Gates, by Jane Hirshfield; Poetry Home Repair Manual, by Ted Kooser; and, most recently a book I picked up from the free table at the public library: Essays Old and New, from 1957, edited by Robert Jameson.

    Short Stories: I’m not usually much of a short story reader, but lately I’ve wandered into some incredible stories–All The Days and Nights: Collected Stories of William Maxwell (the bit in the back, tiny little fables and fairy tales, is by far my favorite section–try The Blue Finch Of Arabia) and Oh, My—check out Shout Her Lovely Name, by Natalie Serber, especially the title story. Also, though I do almost no fiction reading online, I am addicted to Flax Golden Tales, weekly 10 line stories by Erin Morgenstern, with picture prompts by some talented photographer whose name I can’t recall this second.

    Happy writing. I’m glad I found your site and will visit again, and contemplate the distance between here and now and far off, impossible May. 🙂

  2. The danger of reading so much fiction from older times is that you’re not keeping up with the current language and things can get a bit stiff. i know I’ve suffered under this a few times.
    But I can certainly understand how reading short stories would spark your lust for reading.
    I’m sure you can find a bunch of good ones on fictionpress as well.

    1. Too true. I definitely found the older ones were not as inspiring in terms of story structure and language. I’m very picky about the short stories I enjoy, so reading MORE means I’m more likely to find something I love (or something that annoys me so much that I think “I could do something better”!)

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