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Jul 01

Susan Shiney

50 Ways to Make Writing More Playful

I love writing, but it is very easy for me to turn it into something stressful. I think I do that because I care about it and want to improve. However, it is a very slippery slope turning something that can have a sense of joy into a job. I already have a job, I don't need to turn my life into having two full-time jobs. Writing is a joy that will hopefully turn into something I make a living off of, but never a job.

As I stress over some element of writing or writing around the writing like analysing a book for a writing group or book club, finishing a blog post or newsletter, my husband will say to me, "What are you doing, this is suppose to be fun, remember?" Oh yeah!

So, I took some time to reflect on ways to make writing more playful and playful moments I have had with writing in the past.

  1. Write-ins : These instantly bring a sense of fun to share that time with another writer. It also keeps me from obsessing about writing at other parts of the day because I already have my writing time scheduled. We can talk about our intentions either in person or online, then agree to stop talking and get to work in each other's presense. I think of it like meditation, there is a different kind of energy when you do it in a group.
  2. Bench hop: Identify spaces in your area that would be great for writing and that you find inspiring. I love being in nature, at the beach, in parks, or going for a hike in the mountains. You can also carry a little seat with you or a picnic blanket. To spice if up sometimes I will carry a notebook with me or a print out of a work in progress and set timers, write for 15 minutes or so then get up and walk to the next spot. The mixture of exercise and different spaces brings a lot of ideas. You can do this alone or with a writing group for a day out. One group I did this with went from spot to spot and each time we moved we would share a couple sentences and no one made any comments we just listened nodded and moved to the next place.
  3. Cafe hop: Similar to the idea before but in finding more inspirational indoor areas. This is probably more ideal depending on the time of year and if you need to plug in your computer. Same idea as above in doing it alone or with a group. Do you have a set of indoor spaces in your area? Don't forget libraries, both public and at universities, or hotel lobbies and cafes. Also, I love museum coffee shops that tend to be ecclectic.
  4. Stationary Shopping Spree: Spice up your process with index cards, new pens and markers, notebooks of all different sizes, white boards, post-its, stickers, new binders to hold your works in progresses, treat yourself!
  5. Dress up your home writing space: Buy flowers or fake plants, print out and frame some inspiring pictures, have some quotes up from writers you love, put a calendar up with goals and deadlines, character collages, etc. Does your writing space spark joy? If not, what can you change about it?
  6. Make a soundtrack for your story: What songs represent the journey of your character in all three acts? Then you can listen to it while you are writing. What songs represent the vibes of the characters you are working on? Or check out scores from films that are similar to your story. I tend to write better to music without lyrics. But it depends on my mood.
  7. Dictate while walking: Write down some writerly things you need to solve or brainstorm on an index card and carry it with you. Then use your phones recorder to dictate some free associations of ideas. You could even write a story while walking to type out later. I love this and don't make space for this enough. I feel like it uses a different part of my brain.
  8. Record yourself reading your story: This can add some spice to the way you go about editing. The act of reading helps me fix clumpy sentences, but listening to it back can also help you with those blindspots you can have when staring at your work.
  9. Buy a new piece of writing technology: Yes, this can be expensive, but possibly with some budgeting you can invest in your writing. I treated myself and bought a qwerkywriter keyboard. It inspires me to write when I see it at my desk. I love hearing the clicks and clanks. Next thing I have my eye on is a smart pen by Moleskin where you can write by hand and then it digitizes it and types it out into a document for you. I think this will revolutionize my next first draft during Nanowrimo.
  10. Reward yourself: Set a writing goal and reward yourself with a treat of some kind. Yes, it can be tricky to find something healthy and not too expensive. However, it could be a guilty pleasure TV show, a bath, a certain amount of time where you don't write, a phone call to a loved one you have been putting off because you are so busy.
  11. Write a motivating letter to yourself: If you ever feel unmotivated, you can have a letter prepared when you are in a positive space to yourself to remind yourself why you write and how to keep a positive perspective. Really dress up the letter with cute stationary and ribbons on the envelope and have it placed in your writing space.
  12. Track yourself: To keep it playful you could use some cute paper and make little ringlets for each day you write and see how long you can keep the chain going in your writing space. If you break the streak, you need to take it down and start again. I also like online trackers too.
  13. Join a public reading: This could be set up with your writing group in a cafe or you can search out events or spoken words in your area. It is a different type of performance that can motivated you to polish your work.
  14. Find your communities online: Connecting with other people online that have the same interests as you is important. You'd be surprised how niche you can go into forums and discussion boards. You can find facebook groups, scribophile groups, nanowrimo groups, quora groups, reddit groups. Sharing interests with like-minded people is very invigorating.
  15. Try a totally different medium: Try poetry, flash fiction, 100-word stories, novels in verse, screenwriting, playwriting, songwriting/lyrics, fan fiction, or comic books. Maybe you are in a rut because you are doing the same kind of medium all of the time. This can also include trying a different genre, like romance, fantasy, action adventure. The NYC Midnight writing contest assigns a random genre for their challenges and if totally changes the way you approach writing.
  16. Time writing without stopping: Remember these activities from elementary school? Bring them to your adult writing world. Set a certain amount of time and then do not lift your pen until it is up, see where your imagination takes you.
  17. Use prompts: If you google prompts there are several floating around online. This can be particularly fun to do in a writing group because everyone will take the story in a different direction.
  18. Make your own challenge: Yes, there are several challenges out there like 3-day novel writing contest, Nanowrimo, or NYC Midnight like I mentioned before. But, why not create your own? What about thirty one-hundred word stories in 30 days, or 30 poems? You could also just make it a week-long challenge for yourself.
  19. Go to a writing conference: Make writing business cards for you to network and set a goal to exchange cards with at least ten people. Prepare questions you might ask the different speakers beforehand. Set a goal for that too. Practice your elevator pitch to describe your work in progress. Take a bunch of notes and blog about it afterward.
  20. Take a free writing class: You can google this online and also take a moment to watch some lectures on youtube as well. Choose a topic that you are most inspired by. Maybe check out a lecture in something you are already confident in, that means you like that aspect.
  21. Use the routine of an author you admire: This is something that authortuber Kate Cavanaugh does so you can learn about some author routines from her or google interviews of authors who discuss their daily routines.
  22. Play with the style of a favorite author: I tried writing like Hemingway for a writing class once. It was interesting and then I was so happy to get back to what felt natural for me. A nice way to mix it up though. I have even heard of people rewriting their favorite authors by hand in their notebook to get an idea of their rhythm.
  23. Buy a large white board: Use it only for writing related scribblings and planning things out. This could also include a large cork board just for writing related things. I think they even have white board paint out there for the super crafty person.
  24. Go on a writing retreat: You can rent a cabin or go to a place dedicated to retreat space. Guest Blogger L'Abri Tipton discusses a creative residency she co-runs here. You could do it alone or with your writing group. The nice thing about a retreat weekend is that it gives you a strong intention just to focus on your writing and connecting with other creatives.
  25. Set a fun tune on your alarm as a writing reminder: This relates to scheduling a write-in. Having a set time in your schedule to write can be freeing when you are not writing. Try to find a fun tone that gets you in the mood, most definitely different from the one you wake up to in the morning.
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  27. Write something as a gift: Take a special moment or conversation and fictionalize it, then call them and read it out loud.
  28. Have your work in progress printed and binded into a notebook: I have seen other authors do it and I am just at the point where I am realizing how fun that sounds. I can carry it around with me and my pens and edit away.
  29. Visit settings in your story: It doesn't have to be very specific like going to Italy, though a google earth tour could be fun. I mean if you have a tattoo parlor as a setting in your story, go visit one and take pictures and do some free-writing for inspiration.
  30. Interview people: Yes, it might be easy to go down a rabbit-hole of research. However, hearing the perspectives of people with professions similar to characters in your stories can help. Or not even professions, it can be age groups similar to your characters or people who have been through similar types of conflicts (with in reason). You could also show this person a glimpse of your story and ask if they think it is believable and what changes they think should be made.
  31. Read books on creativity: There are some overlaps of playful ideas taken from some of these books. For more in-depth discussions I recommend going to the source. Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones, and Julia Cameron's The Artist Way all are filled with ideas. A good resource on artist dates ideas to cater to your creative soul can be found here.
  32. Go (imaginary) shopping for your characters: You can use pinterest as a spring board for ideas on how your character would dress, what are there favorite things to do and buy? I am very visual when I begin brainstorming my characters.
  33. Eavesdrop on conversations while walking around: Ok, don't be creepy but training your ear to hear how people actually speak with each other can help you improve your dialogue writing skills. While in a park just let your surroundings in a bit more. Sit with your notebook and take some notes on what you notice.
  34. Have your character write some tweets: So, probably a good idea not to make these public, but it could help you write some ideas to get to know what their voice is. Who would your character follow or tweet to? What hashtags would they use?
  35. Have your friends act out a scene you have written: I did this in a writing group and it helped me to pin-point some of my issues with dialogue. I also take notes when someone else struggles with a sentence that I might have glossed over even reading it out to myself.
  36. Make a facebook page for your characters: This could be less public than twitter since there are privacy settings and could be a fun thing to revist when the time comes to actually market your book. Maybe they could one day interact with fans? What kind of articles would they read? Pictures would they take?
  37. Make a symbol system for editing: Yes, I am always trying to bring a sense of play to editing. The system could be colors for certain kinds of issues which could help point out to you an issue you have with your writing. You could use symbols for certain errors, just make sure to have a key somewhere so you can remember what they refer to. Or you could use stickers to mark up your manuscript.
  38. Create a podcast in the voice of one of your characters: If your character had a podcast what would they say? What would be the topic they focused on? This would give you a chance to do some acting and brainstorming the background of your character. Just like research not everything needs to go into your story, this can help inform it. Keep the recordings for yourself or again they could be fun for marketing in the future.
  39. Cosplay as one of your characters: I don't quite have the guts for this on the public arena, but it could be fun to go to a thrift store and choose an outfit your character might wear and write in their voice while wearing those clothes. Guest blogger Lynne Stringer wrote about doing cosplay here. Authors that do cosplay on instagram look like they are having such a blast.
  40. Do character illustrations: It doesn't matter how artistically inclined you are. It could be some simple sketches you do. Or you can use watercolors and acrylics and do quotes on the side that characters might say. If you absolutely hate drawing, you could always do cut-outs from magazines. These would be great for decorating your writing area.
  41. Have a set board: Just like they do to prepare for a movie with all of the set ideas splayed on a board. Do this for your story. Print out ideas or just keep them on pinterest or you could copy/paste on a powerpoint. Then, push yourself to describe these locations more in-depth to take pieces of that to include in your story.
  42. Visit a lecture or guest speaker that relates to a topic in your story: Kind of similar to doing an interview, but the difference is you will be with an audience of like minded people. Maybe environmentalists or coders or activists? You can network with more people to interview or just notice what they look like, what are the people talking about with each other before and after the lecture. What kinds of questions do they ask the speaker?
  43. Create a trailer for your story: This could be in the beginning or ending part. Writing a synopisis or blurb is helpful to try and figure out how you will sell it. You could have actors or you could take video clips from online and edit them together and do some voice overs.
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  45. Create a map: Yes, we usually see these for fantasy worlds. But, what about the world of your character. Do you have a visual of where the fictional shops are in relation to your character's house? You could draw one out or use photoshop. Another great thing to have hanging for reference.
  46. Create a visual timeline: Keeping time straight in your story is very important. Especially if you have multiple narrators in different time periods. There are professional time line makers online or you could use word or draw it out yourself.
  47. Co-author a story: There are several books written by two authors. Maybe if you are in a rut, ask a writer friend to work on something together. I am sure you would learn a lot about your process and it would be a growing experience.
  48. Make an art piece with your rejection letters: Stephen King says he had a nail in the wall and he would stab each note through to focus on his progress of just trying to get out there. What about making a scrapbook or collage, you could even paint over them with watercolors. It still shows you are trying.
  49. Write the same scene from 5 different character perspectives: I have read several craft books mentioning trying on different voice styles. This could be an interesting way to see if you have the right point of view for your story or if you need to include multiple points of views.
  50. Create a pen name and publish in a totally different style: This could be an opportunity to have a whole different identity. Don't feel that you have to always stay in the same box. Even more fun, never tell anyone that it is you!
  51. Help someone else write their story: This is different from being a co-author, helping a non-writer family member bring a story idea to life can be very satisfying and make you remember why you love writing in the first place. I had a family member answer my prompting questions while recording them and before they knew it, their short story was written. This is especially satisfying if you do this with children, but adults could benefit too.
  52. Remember that writing isn't just typing out ideas and editing them: It is all of these playful ways to research and flesh out your ideas. In this modern world, it is also marketing. I write more about how social media can make you a better writer here. Doing fun activities will also make it so you will never have to spend much time thinking about 'What should I post or blog about?'

What do you do to make writing more playful? Please leave a comment below.

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