By Catherine Franz | Posted 6/2/05 | Updated 5/28/23
Zany: Amusingly unconventional and idiosyncratic.
Welcome to the zany ideas of a productive writer. My students keep reminding me of my unusual tools and how helpful they have been for them. I also thank my students for their concept testing and refinement. Now, I feel much more confident about sending them out into the world.
For the next few minutes let your imagination run amuck. Okay, amuck is a little too far out there, so what about allowing an open mind for the time being. Afterwards, you can let your mind ruminate.
My office has a beautiful u-shape ash wood desk that I'm proud of. Partially due to its price and uniqueness. It is here, I handle my emails, pay bills, read, coach, and edit there. Yet, I had difficulty setting the ground work for my writing. Tasks like creating first drafts, deciding on the major points, or creating a table of contents. Because of this I usually seek another environment that sparks these efforts.
Probably like yourself, I found my best ideas arrive when I'm in the shower, when I first wake, while driving, or while walking. Just to name a few. Let's take a short side trip, I want to share with you how I capture my thoughts during these light-bulb moments.
While walking I use a tape recorder on an adjustable camera strap around my neck. Voice activation and the mike pointed up towards your chin are musts. To start recording all you need to do is tuck in your chin and begin speaking. I say my name first usually because the first one or two words get lost while the recorder's activation mode kicks on. Heavy breathing or puffing, since it goes forward and not down, usually does not activate the recorder.
In the shower, I use a pen I purchased while visiting NASA in Florida. It can write in extreme temperatures and underwater. A grease pen works well if you don't mind writing large. It is also cheaper. Add a diver's under water board and you're ready.
For driving, I use the same method as I do for my walks. Normally the engine noise will activate the recorder if left on the seat. That is, unless you have a car that is perfectly quiet inside.
Okay, sidetrack over, back to zany ideas.
During the day I found myself playing musical chairs when writing. At home and in the office. My lounge chair in my bedroom was right for personal journaling. Early outside sunrises was for new inspirations.
My living room recliner was good for brainstorming from reading. For writing personal development topics, the left seat of the couch next to a very large scenic picture window is the place. For long how tos, it was the dining room table or a specific McDonald's. I don't know if it was the smell of grease or the acoustics that lit a fire under my pen.
The library and its smell of old books make me tired and snoozy. Sometimes my mind felt too vibrant and jumpy with all the possibilities and paths open to me.
Do you like to stare out the window? Me too! I have an awesome view from my wall-to-wall office window. I use to think daydreaming on a topic wasn't productive but have found the openness feeling brings in expansiveness to my writings. As long as I'm not sitting at my desk while staring.
What can you do when you need to spark the imagination and you have already taken a shower? Do you take another? What about driving? With gas prices jumping skyward who wants to drive just to spark the creative bug.
Here are a few ideas on how to solve:
Buy a miniature waterfall to recreate the shower feel. Or use a sound devices that imitates a rambling brook or rain. Place it carefully where you want to fuel a particular type of muse. Turn it on, close your eyes, and place yourself in the shower. Toss some water on your face before hand if that helps. One of my clients, turns on the shower, sits in the bathroom for a few minutes to kick the process in, and then she moves to a chair.
Instead of driving, sit in the car with your left hand on the steering wheel, close your eyes, and imagine the movement, holding a pen in the right hand with paper balanced on your knee or on a board. If you are returning home, do this after you have parked. The movement of the car will remain.
Some of these may be zany for you, some not. Spark your imagination, try new and different things. Try them at least three or four times and adapt to what feels right for that moment. Your writing productivity and creativity is sure to double.
Copyright ©2005 Catherine Franz. All rights reserved.
Catherine Franz is a columnist who's articles have appeared in thousands of magazines, books and newsletters on nonfiction writing, life and marketing.