Between the Lines

Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until
the faucet is turned on.
— Louis L’Amour

After two columns this year dedicated to grammar/word usage, it is time to dive into some creativity and give your muse a workout. She’s been getting cranky, and that is never good. I suggest you get a notebook (if you don’t have one already) and dedicate it to gathering ideas and creative freewriting. No one has to read anything in it (so feel free to write badly and not worry). If something does turn into a story or article, there are so many places to submit now, and why not share something with the world? Or, just write for fun and to connect with your creativity.

  1. Make a list of places to visit: a state park, an airport, a train station, a shopping mall, a restaurant, somewhere on the UW campus. Get your writing pack together — a notebook and pen or your laptop or pad — and go! Get inspiration for a character by doing some people-watching. Imagine where they come from, what they are doing there and where they are headed. Set aside a half or full day for a date with your creativity. You will be glad you did.
  2. Visit a resale shop and purchase an object that intrigues you — clothing, a lamp, a toy, a tchotchke. Take it home, sit it before you and listen. Yep, it has stories to tell. Start freewriting and begin by describing it. Then let your imagination go. Who owned it? Where did they get it? Why is it important to them? Or write from the object’s point of view. Where was it and what did it witness? Who owned it? When your freewriting begins turning into a short story, go where your muse takes you.
  3. List some events that could evolve into a story. Can’t come up with anything? I just Googled “news stories” and found: “Study shows black holes are evaporating,” “Man bit off and swallowed grandfather’s fingertip,” “Drivers stop to chase money on New Jersey highway,” “Canada man flew 1,400 miles in wrong direction after boarding the wrong flight to the Arctic,” “Town hires cat chief to attend to strays,” “ATM mistakenly dispenses $100 bills instead of $10s,” “Runaway goat herd invades Idaho neighborhood,” “Two elderly men sneak out of nursing home to attend heavy metal festival.” Bet you can get a story from one of those!
  4. This is one of my favorite exercises: Brainstorm opening lines that might make a good story. Write a first line for the following novels: fantasy, romance, action-adventure, urban fantasy, historical fiction, horror, literary, mystery, science fiction, suspense/thriller, western or young adult. Choose your favorite and continue writing.
    Whichever exercise you choose, no matter where your muse takes you, be sure to let loose the brakes and freewrite. Let your imagination free and don’t worry about how good it is. The goal is not to write a brilliant story, but to connect to your creativity and imagination.

Kathy Steffen is an award-winning novelist and author of the “Spirit of the River Series:” “First, There is a River,” “Jasper Mountain,” and “Theater of Illusion.” She writes from her home in Spring Green she shares with her husband and cats. Find out more at www.kathysteffen.com.