Thursday, January 26, 2017

What to write about

Nearly a month of this year has passed and I have not added to my work in progress. I have been thinking about the other three works-in-progress that I have also let sit. Rather than work on any one, I have been considering trying to put twenty minutes a day into each - which would be more than the zero minutes I have put into any one of them.

Maybe I should return to my Click-bait series. It has been fun. Or I could share the stories I make up for my son before he goes to bed. Two days ago, he gave me the prompts 1) beondaeggi (silkworm larvae), 2)Cooking and 3) Lance Armstrong. My story was of how Armstrong tried to rebuild his empire with a cooking show, cooked and ate silkworm larvae, and then looked so disgusted that people tuned in just to see his look of regret and nausea. Not bad.

Whatever, I've gotta get off Quora. I am having too much fun and spending too much time there. In fact, this discussion was prompted by a question on Quora. My answer is below.

How should I write creatively as a teenager?

I want to enter a creative writing contest in my school district. Teens often try to write deep stories, and come off as edgy and overconfident. I won’t delude myself into thinking that I can write a life-changing story, but what can I write that’s good enough to win? I want to be realistic

Discussing, “I want to enter a creative writing contest in my school district. Teens often try to write deep stories, and come off as edgy and overconfident.

Ira Glass discussed your problem: A quote by Ira Glass
All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.
I personally want to be an edgy, confident writer like Matt Taibbi or the late Edward Abbey. Nothing I have written has been close.
But Glass goes on to say,
Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.
I have nothing better to add. But I can offer some suggestions on what to write about.

Answering, “ I won’t delude myself into thinking that I can write a life-changing story, but what can I write that’s good enough to win? I want to be realistic.”

I think I had a similar situation, or a situation that I am going force into a metaphor so it seems a little similar, some time ago.

Friends were blogging and I decided to give it a try (blogging was a new idea once). I went to Blogger and made a blog and…

A dozen false starts taught me that I wanted to write about nature and tourism in my region (I was an ESL instructor in a rural part of South Korea). I tried to write about politics but didn’t care enough to have deep insight. I was interested in my profession but didn’t have enough background there to publish consistent material. I didn’t want a diary of my day-to-day life…. Finally, I wrote about cycling and hiking and was proud of my product.

By the way, I was never more than a second rate blogger -even in the tiny field of Blogs About Korea In English.

Similar things happened when I looked into podcasting, vlogging and wood carving. You can’t just sit down with a block of wood and a knife and expect inspiration to strike. Even if it does, you still need to design and plan before your knife ever touches the wood.

Wanting to write is a big deal and something you should encourage. Wanting to write but with no ideas of what to write about is a huge challenge. I don’t know when the deadline for this contest is but I suspect it is too soon for you to find out what you like and then make a good product. You might be able to, but I suggest finding some prompt to start your creative juices flowing. Start writing a few things and see what happens.

These prompts are to help you defeat ‘terror of the blank page’. This terror the understanding that you could write absolutely anything you want. Anything! And so nothing comes to mind.

I use a variety of prompts. Here is a partial list.:

As another respondent suggested, try fan-fiction. Write about a minor character at Hogwarts or etc. Imagine you are the secretary that Christian Gray walks past everyday on his way to practice bondage with whats-her-name from the 50 shades books. This secretary could harbour a secret crush or jealousy or merely be stealing from Gray every time he turns his back on her. I wrote about the continued adventures of a favorite character, Kim, from Kipling’s book of the same name.

Click-bait titles. What do you think about when you read, “Everything they don’t want you to know about Trump”? I imagine him having a Batman-esque lifestyle and desperately wanting out of the limelight so he can beat up space aliens.

Three words chosen at random. Random Word Generator - Creative online tool to generating randomized words for brainstorming. This gave me the words ‘parasitic’, ‘positive’, and ‘excitement’. I am not sure what to make of them… (1 minute later): I am now thinking of a horror story with parasites that make you feel good and a person fighting her own thrills as she seeks to rid herself of them before they kill her. I just gave myself a shudder!

The thing is, even if these ideas never create a contest-winning story, they will improve your writing until other ideas can. And while you work on them, perhaps you will have a winning idea.

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