Sunday, November 11, 2012

18 Unusual Writing Ideas

When we think about writing ideas, what usually comes to mind are characters, plots, scenes, language, and images.

Ideas almost always have to do with concepts and matters of the mind, but what about the physical act of writing?

Most of us write at our computers, and many of us still use good old-fashioned pen and paper.

Isn’t it Ordinary?

It’s all rather ordinary and limiting – always sitting in the same position and using the same tools – day in and day out. Creativity gets stale with too much routine. Sure, you can take breaks. There are lots of writing tips that recommend getting out for some exercise and socializing, and there are plenty of creativity tips that help you think in new ways.

What about writing ideas that get you moving and positioning your body in new ways? Or touching different textures and being in an environment that’s nothing like your usual surroundings?

Get off that chair, step away from your desk, and try standing or crouching. Put yourself into a different environment – leave the office and go outside. Lie on your stomach in the grass and scratch words, carve them, paint them, and let the stimuli of your surroundings and the tools in your hand gently guide your mind, your muse, your creativity – to a new dimension.
Unusual Writing Ideas

These 18 writing ideas are definitely unusual, and unlike most ideas, they don’t happen inside your head. You’ll make them happen with your body, your surroundings, and the tools you’re writing with.

1. Supersize it

Get some extra-large, oversized paper and sprawl out somewhere – like in the grass or on the floor. Instead of typing or writing in the limited space of your computer monitor or notebook, use pens and pencils, and write until you fill up the entire sheet. Use big, enormous letters or itty bitty ones. Either way, it’s going to feel a lot different from what you’re used to.

2. Colored Markers
A pack of colored markers doesn’t cost much, and once you’ve got them, you can use them to write on that oversized paper, and that makes the previous idea sound a lot more fun. Putting down your words in color might spark fresh writing ideas, so use your markers to write in your notebook or journal, on sticky notes, and even on scratch paper when you’re jotting down concepts.

3. Speaking of Sticky Notes
Try writing different parts of a story or poem on sticky notes. Limit yourself to a few words (for poetry) or just a line or two (for prose). On each sticky note, write a line of dialogue or some basic action (she walked toward the door). You’ll be writing in a tiny space, and that will make you choose your words more carefully, and when you’re done, you can have fun patching all the sticky notes together to complete your piece.

4. Chalk it Up
Actually, chalk it down. Most department and toy stores sell big buckets of large, thick “Sidewalk Chalk,” which is perfect for marking up sidewalks and driveways. This is a fun exercise to do with the kids, by the way. Chalk a poem or a piece of flash fiction. If you want to save it, take a photo before washing it all away.

5. Stand and Deliver
There are lots of ways you can write while standing. You can stand at a counter, for example, and write in your notebook, but that’s not very unusual. In addition to standing, try writing on a flat, vertical surface. Tape paper to a wall, door, or window and then let your words flow. You can also use an easel for this one.

6. Lie in the Grass
The trick is lie directly on the grass. Do not use a blanket or a towel – make contact with the green. The idea is to physically connect with a texture you’re not used to. If grass is just too damp or dirty for you, then try this on sand or pavement (I bet the pavement’s WAY dirtier than the grass). The important thing is to be outdoors, be lying down, and be writing.

7. Paint Your Words
You don’t need fancy paints or paintbrushes – a set of watercolors from the school supply aisle will do. You might want to use that oversized paper for this one. Paint your story or poem instead of writing it and if the mood strikes (and you’re feeling artistic), get some images in there too – or just let the colors run and see what happens to your words.

8. Get Super Old School
Use a fountain pen and an inkwell (yes, they still make this stuff) and find out what it was like to be a writer hundreds of years ago. Remember, some of the greatest writers in history did it this way – dipping their nibs into the ink: Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Emily Dickinson. If they could do it, you can too!

9. Scratching on Crayon
This an old trick that school-aged kids use: Use pastel crayons to color in an entire sheet of paper. You can use a solid color, or make rainbows, or big bubbles and stripes. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. When you’re done, go over the whole thing with the black crayon until it’s colored solid black. Now, you can use your fingernail to write by scratching off the black layer, and voila! Your writing reveals a rainbow of color beneath.

10. Ambidexterity
Are you right-handed? Write with your left hand. Left-handed? Use your right. It feels awkward at first, but if you concentrate, you should be able to scrawl something legible using your opposite hand (yes, I know this because I have actually done some of these crazy things. What? You think I make this stuff up?).

11. Stay at Your Computer
Okay, so you want to switch things up, but you just can’t pry yourself away from your beloved computer. You can still get creative. Try writing in white text on a black background. Or try lime green on a dark purple background. Mix up your colors, make them bold, or put them in italics, and get busy writing.

12. And if You Want to Get Really Fancy
Still don’t want to leave your computer? Well go find some unusual fonts and write with those. Try script fonts or big, bold fonts, and put them into different sizes. Get away from Times New Roman and use fonts that are not 10 – 14 in size.

13. Eat Your Words
Remember Alpha-Bits cereal? Well, they’re back on the market, and that means you can use them to write. I confess, I haven’t tried this one and it could get messy. It might also be difficult – if you keep eating your letters, you won’t have anything to write with.

14. Wear Your Words
If you can eat your words, you might as well wear them. All you need is a Sharpie (better yet, try some colored Sharpies) and a cheap, white t-shirt. Stretch the fabric around something solid and start writing. Hey, if you ever become a world-famous novelist, that t-shirt is going to be worth big bucks!

15. Make a Mural
You can buy rolls of paper at art supply stores and even at home improvement stores. Roll it out and attach it to the wall. Masking tape works well for this, and a good place for this activity is on a garage door. Now you’re really mixing things up; you’re standing, writing on oversized paper, and as an added bonus, you can get out your colored markers or paints and really liven things up.

16. Revisit Your Childhood
Earlier I mentioned writing with paints and paintbrushes. Try doing it with finger paints (I bet you’re going to need that oversized paper for this one). You’ll probably get nice and dirty, and this is another great one to do with the kids. Leave yourself some time to take a shower afterward.

17. Carvings
You’d be surprised at all the things you can carve – pieces of firewood, a candle, your kitchen table. I’m kidding. Don’t wreck your kitchen table. But carving words slows down the writing process, which means you’ll put more thought into what you’re saying and you’ll take greater care with your grammar. Use an awl or other sharp instrument to whittle your tale.

18. Shoe Boxes
I recently helped a dear friend clean out her closet. She had some old stuff in there. Like a cardboard shoebox in which we’d written a story some twelve years ago. We had used nothing more than a cardboard box and a ball point pen (should have used a Sharpie), and here it was, over a decade later, hidden behind a pair of old sneakers. This one’s my favorite and that’s why I saved it for last.

I’m sure there’s some scientific reasoning that explains why these activities turn up the heat on creativity. I’m no scientist, but I do know when my own creativity is in high gear. I have actually tried several of these unusual and quirky writing ideas and techniques, and I clearly recall that they got me thinking in different ways, and I almost always came up with things to write about that otherwise never would have occurred to me.

So try a few of these out for yourself. Give yourself about 20-30 minutes so you have enough time to settle into the writing activity, and then see what happens.

About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas