"Writers can backtrack and pinpoint the origin of many essays, poems and stories, the moments where we recognized some shape in the ether as the start of something, a particle to split or terrain to explore. This is the proverbial “aha moment” when something clicks. Yet the whole process remains so mysterious that we often end up speaking in hazy clichés such as “something clicked” and “aha moment,” mapping a piece’s genesis on a vague psycho-geography composed of particles and ether, because the process of discovery is often as ambiguous as our understanding of it.
"There is consolation, though. The more you write, the more you learn how to generate ideas. Even if you still depend on happenstance, you develop habits. Whether the places you search are on the streets or in books or the caverns of your mind, you learn to recognize the fertile locations where subjects turn up, in the same way an urban hawk learns where the pigeons roost, and you visit those locations frequently. The writer Barry Lopez summarized this tracking ability when he said something to the effect of (I’m paraphrasing from memory): once you train your eyes to see them, you realize that stories are everywhere. That’s true. But how do you learn to see?"
Experimenting is a core innovation skill. Scott Berkun's book The Year Without Pants outlines the approach that Automattic uses to foster experiments at WordPress.com. It's a great approach, which you can adapt to fit your organisation too.
Every story is a series of events that hopefully lead from one to another. Something happens and because of that other actions need to be taken.
But even when thing logically follow on from one to the next, that doesn’t necessarily make for an interesting story. Just because there’s a good reason for what a character’s doing, that isn’t necessarily enough to make it worth reading about.
You can very easily get into a groove that turns into a rut. What the character needs to do next seems so obvious the writer doesn’t take a moment to consider whether that’s a good thing.
Someone who has a flair for worded expression can be a good writer. Someone who doesn't think of writing as a chore can be a good writer. Someone who writes like a natural can be a good writer. So, let us really find out what makes a good writer.
Sarah McElrath's insight:
Good insights--and comfort to both the natural writer and the writer that agonizes over every word.
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