Resources That Feed Your Writing Brain by Beverly Delidow, Ph.D.
Do you ever feel like you are stuck in a box with your writing? Can’t see out, and you forget to even look. It is wonderful to be engrossed in your work and clicking along. But here’s the “BUT”: As writers we can get so focused on our own “stuff” that we forget about the big wide world out there.
I tend to disappear down the rabbit hole when I write, too, so I have developed two habits that help me to stay connected to a broader range of thoughts and ideas than the ones between my ears. I read Op-Ed articles from my favorite newspapers and I listen to public radio in my car. I have learned some amazing stuff – and, as a writer, it is a wonderful thing to be amazed. These are some of the outside sources I find rich with wonder and the seeds of new ideas that feed my writing:
- Radio shows that show me something new: I love “This American Life”, “On the Media”, “Bob Edwards Weekend”, and a wonderful segment called “This I Believe”. I listen, I hear wonderful things, and I learn. And “This I Believe” is a continuing project that takes submissions – something to think about there for all you writers.
- Opinions that make me think: I read the Op-Ed pieces in the New York Times pretty regularly. I’m sure you have columnists you enjoy in your favorite papers, too. I love to read columns by people who make me THINK. Two of my favorites are David Brooks and Bono, because these two writers are so thoughtful and their pieces teach me so much – not because I always agree with their points of view, but because they craft their views so beautifully.
- Essays that make me want to cry: I recently read a stunning article in Mother Jones about my hometown. The facts in the story were so sad and terrible it was very hard to read. But this was a truly POWERFUL piece of writing that said something important, without getting maudlin, and that kind of spotlight makes a difference.I know I already mentioned radio shows, but I’m going to add two more as individual items because of all the amazing things I’ve learned from them.
- Fresh Air with Terri Gross: I have never heard an interview on this show I didn’t learn something from. One recent favorite was an interview with Keith Richards about his memoir. We got to meet the man behind the music. It was fabulous. I absolutely love the feeling of “I didn’t know that!” I get from listening to the guests. It’s inspiring.
- The Diane Rehm Show: Diane Rehm is a national treasure – for a laser-eyed, skillful dissection of news stories, I have never found any better resource. I am lucky enough to live within broadcast distance of a station that plays two hours of her show every morning. When it comes to news analysis, class is in session from 10 to noon everyday – don’t be late!
Along with all the “tough love” stuff above, there are some resources I’ve found that are less taxing:
- A new voice: It is a wonderful thing to find an author you’ve never read before who makes you sit up and take notice. For me the most recent find was Reynolds Price. I am delighted to have found his works, though I’m sad it was after his passing.
- Images that you could get lost in for hours: I am a visual artist as well as a writer. Finding an image I can “disappear” into is inspiring and relaxing and renewing. Find some art that inspires you today!
- Stories about something GOOD: The news feed is so often all in 4D – death, disease, destruction, despair – I sometimes avoid the news for days because I’ve had enough. But every once in a while I come across stories that show how wonderful things do happen. The same week I read the heartbreaking Mother Jones article, I also found a story about two college students who figured out a way to start commercial distribution of affordable fresh vegetables to city neighborhoods that didn’t have any other source of healthy food. Can you imagine all the wonderful things that will come of that? How completely delightful!
- A new view: Stories, images, and shows that bring a new view of what is important. Want a real eye-opener? Go to a website for a news source from another country – the BBC for example, or the Globe and Mail, or Der Spiegel. Or just switch to the international version of a news source you use frequently. Notice that what is the top story at home, may be back page somewhere else. And something you didn’t even know about will be front and center. It’s really healthy to change perspective occasionally, and see things from a fresh viewpoint.
- A new thought: The beautiful phrase, amazing thought, incredible quote you find by chance. I love quotes – funny ones, thoughtful ones, zingy ones. I especially love finding a new one that takes me by surprise, so I have lots of sources for them. I get several newsletters that make good use of quotes (A.Word.a.Day from Wordsmith.org is a nice one), I have several books of quotations, and I have bookmarked a couple quotations directories on the web. There’s something about a good turn of phrase that makes you want to think – and then turn some more. It’s like that first lovely turn of the spade in good garden soil. The energy it releases makes you eager to do more. That’s what a good, knock-me-out quote does for me.
Head out there and find some inspiration today! You never know where it will lead you.
© Beverly Delidow, Ph.D. Beverly is a professor, writer, and photographer in West Virginia. She has published articles, fiction, poetry, and photographs in a number of forms. You can reach Beverly at firstname.lastname@example.org
And to help you generate those ideas for your next writing project you will want to access the teleseminar Proficient & Productive Use of Mindmapping Open Your Mind! which is available for immediate download and listening.