Thursday, February 24, 2011

Writing Tip Thursday #7 - Sketching for Writers

I write the way that I draw and paint. The punch line would be ‘ha ha, not very well” but I do draw and paint rather well. And I do it in a way that makes sense to me, process-wise, despite teachers who have told me I would get better results doing it another way. I sketch. I sketch and I sketch lightly. I put in rough ideas and, when it strikes me, I flesh something out, but other things I leave just surface impressions of. Some writing advice says you should, like the Red King, start at the beginning and keep going on until the end, then stop. Other advice has it that you should just write what you are excited about at the moment and go back and piece it all together later. 

All great advice. But for me, I need to power through. I need to get something, a couple of lines a feeling, no matter how dumb or poorly written, down on the page. I grant you, it's much more daunting for me to go back and fill in, shore up weaknesses and rout problems. But it's the only way that I can keep going. I've tried the other way and it makes me stall out. I sit and think and think until I'm so thunk out that all I've got to show for it is a firm believe that I'll never be a writer. By sketching out I can show myself, my harshest critic that I can create something and it's not half bad. In the face of 80k words of evidence, it's harder to nay-say.

I also sketch when I'm stuck. A few days ago, when I was looking at what I'd written and deleted, written and deleted written and started to delete again, I stopped. Put the laptop DOWN. And got out my sketchbook. I drew this:
It's Finis Terra City, a place in my WIP.  Now, this causes it's own frustrations, of course. This isn't really what I had in mind and as a drawing, it's kinda poor (I did have to use my daughter's crayons, so that's one reason it's not the best) but it does two things: It takes my mind off of words to tell my story. Having to visualize what my world looks like brings me out to the 'bigger picture' literally - what does this world look like? Second, it keeps me in my world but not concentrating on plot or action - what's next, what's next? I can contemplate the architecture of this world and the idea I had of concentric fortress walls. I can ask myself, what kind of technology exists here that doesn't exist in the rest of BookEnd? And why?

This is still working on my book, still 'writing' in fact, it's crucial to do. And the perfect way to unblock.

When that doesn't work and I need to get away from my WIP, but I don't want to sit drooling in front of the TV, I sketch. This time, because I've volunteered to create a 24' mural for International Day at my daughter's school. Here's a detail of a toucan for the mural:

Why is this important? Because being creative, in whatever way you do it, feeds other creativity. I firmly believe it. Whether it's writing a blog post, drawing, singing, whatever uses your creativity and makes you feel like you've made something wonderful - do it. I guarantee that it will help move the ball forward. Even if it feels like goofing off. 


  1. Magpie,
    So with you. I believe in powering through and to keep going. It might not be the best writing day, but you never know where it may lead or what ideas may come out of it. So true.

  2. Unfortunately, lately, I feel my blog posts as more work in need of brain power. I really like the idea of sketching. I plan to try it next time I'm frustrated, which will most likely happen today. One suggestion you provided, dancing, helps me burns off the the anxious energy keeping my fingers from moving and clogging up my creative flow. The best is flailing around like a lunatic. It makes me laugh also another great stress reliever.


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