As a novelist, I know it may not seem like “work” when I watch a movie, read a book for pleasure, study an author’s work by reading and rereading and dissecting and evaluating and diagramming, or while flipping through a catalog or magazine. Or just by staring out my window at the beauty of nature. But it is.
However much my career is not “work” to me but pure pleasure, the above motions feed my imagination. I fall in love with a movie and I want to know: Why? What about that movie touched my soul? I need to know this so I may replicate that emotional pull on my readers in my own stories. Ditto for books I read that move me and engage my feelings.
Studying the masters or having a mentor is key to learning, improving. I happen to be an avid J.D. Robb / Nora Roberts fan. In more than one of my personal library’s How To books on writing, a common homework assignment is to take your favorite author and actually copy down by hand a passage from his/her book. This is NOT to endorse plagiarism. This is to get your mind and fingers in tune to great writing. Sometimes I have to listen to an audio book twenty times before I begin to see a little glimpse into Nora’s patterns in her usage of the English language, because no matter how often I read her stories and know them by heart, she swallows me whole into her tale and I’m lost in it. I yearn to be able to do that with my writing.
As far as catalog cruising or magazine meanderings, I get great ideas for characters that way as well. Same goes for people watching wherever you are. I remember taking the DART express bus downtown to work one day and an athletic-looking young woman in an open Jeep dressed in safari gear drove by with the sunshine raining down on her flawless natural tan. THAT book that she initialized is still percolating in my mind. One story idea of mine came from a paper ad with a full-page photo of a woman in a flannel shirt sipping coffee in front of the open door of her cabin high in the snowcapped mountains.
Sometimes I just write about people I would love to surround myself with, in a world that I would like to inhabit. It is okay to let your imagination run wild and consider various scenarios. I also love mysteries and will write at least one in my lifetime. Research into Stonehenge or the Holy Grail or the Bermuda Triangle would be great fun and I would love to tackle any of those subjects and see what kind of a tale I could wrap around those wonders.
Anything that interests me is fair game: cell memory, transplant recipients taking on new habits and loves, our sixth sense, other dimensions, powerful forces we cannot see—just to name a few.
Speaking of powerful things not visible to us, I am overwhelmed with a sense of good tidings coming my (and your) way. It’s been with me for three days. I can’t wait to see what it is . . . .