I was looking for nice writing topics that would be good to start with and show off my brilliance and wit. At the same time I decided I couldn’t fully expose you to my way of seeing things, in case you don’t appreciate insulting Harry Potter and making fun of Twilight (which I would never do…psh) But that left me suddenly stuck without writing options.
Glaring at the empty screen didn’t help this time, so I Googled “writer’s block”. Got over 11,000,000 results. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside to know that if I was ever in need there’s a lot of advice out there.
Come to think of it, writer’s block seems like a quite popular topic for something that’s all about an inability to write, though it has nothing on “inspiration” (almost 363,000,000 results) and “creativity” (178,000,000). It’s a wonder people still have problems with their writing. After all, there are so many wonderful techniques to help you keep writing.
Take the most popular one: “Set a writing schedule and stick to it.” In theory it sounds great, but from experience I have to say it’s rather difficult to stick to, with all the distractions we have in this realm around us.
So instead of setting up a schedule that won’t work (unless it’s in the middle of the night) and feeling guilty for not following it, I’m a big fan of a slightly different approach: Write whatever you can, whenever you can, wherever you can.
Without time limits, you’ll soon find yourself with a head full of ideas and always the right words to express yourself. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The strategy is simple: Always provide yourselves with the means. Carry a notebook around. Even if at the very beginning all you write down are lottery winning numbers (never the ones you chose), random one-liners (“There’s too much blood in my coffee stream”) and stick figures (never, ever, underestimate the power of stick figures), you never know when the right idea might sneak up on you. And believe me, it will. Ideas are nasty little buggers, coming up behind you when you least expect them, turning your lunch break into the most productive hour of your day.
But your notebook isn’t where the strategy ends. When you’re at your computer, keep a word processor window open in the background. Not only can you type up the ideas you’ve had during the day (and organize them and color code them and categorize them by genre and potential… which you won’t do because there is no writer anal enough for that. And that’s the official version), but you can copy and paste things you find online. Saving file like that and opening them from time to time to look through the ideas does miracles for creativity. Who knows, you can open the file one day and get inspired by something you wrote down three months ago. It’s been known to happen.
Additionally (but this one depends greatly on your personality), a blank screen with that black little cursor, blinking at you in that patronizing manner, laughing at you when you’re not looking… well, it’s highly irritating. And after some time you just want to wipe that smirk off the blinking bastard’s face by writing something exceptionally brilliant.
For those nonviolent souls and peace loving artists that need some extra kick and motivation, the world of writing “whenever, wherever and whatever” isn’t completely closed. They just need to take more conscious action.
I recommend what I do when I’m feeling adventurous (which is NOT, by any means, eating cookies in bed, after midnight). It’s a combination of two sites. The Almost Totally Random Writing Exercise Generator that provides you with a technical parameter (like desired word count), style or a character, and a prompt. Use it with Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die! tool to provide yourself with that much needed motivation and you’ll end up at Writing Boot Camp.
Ah, the smell of fear and creative exhaustion in the morning… Anyway…
That was about writing “whenever” and “wherever” you can. Writing “whatever” is more complicated than you might suspect. Typing random letters is counterproductive, and you already have problems with finding enough time to write as it is. Writing random sentences without any plan as to what kind of story they might tell isn’t all that good in the long run.
Writing “whatever” is more about writing more than one story, trying out different things. When a character is giving you grief, don’t try to reason with them. Put them in a corner and write something else, something short. See how that makes them feel. If the plot doesn’t want to twist your way, leave it be, go write a one-shot about bees and flowers.
True, sometimes you need to work through your problems just like your characters have to work through their issues. But after you spend one or two hours on writing about sunshine and daisies, suddenly, you look at your previous story from a new perspective.
My friend used to say: “Don’t force anything. Just take a bigger hammer”. Your brain is an endless mine of ideas (if it’s not… I see a serious problem with your writing career), so don’t chain yourself to one of them. Remember, you’re a writer, because writing makes you happy. So write whenever, wherever and whatever you feel like.
- Dictionary.com – You no longer have to lug around your Funk and Wagnalls.
- The Free Dictionary - Words and references in many languages.
- One Look – Definition Search
- Word of the Day - From Merriam Webster – and they should know.
- WordReference.com - Online language dictionaries
- Net Dictionary
- Hacker’s Dictionary – So I can pretend to know what geeks are talking about
- Urban Dictionary – So we can know what our kids are talking about.
- SlangSite.com – In case we can’t find what we’re looking for at the Urban Dictionary
- Webopedia – More geekery
- Duhaime.org - Legal Dictionary
- UMCP’s Botannical Glossary
- UMCP’s Zoological Glossary
- UMCP’s Biochemistry Glossary
Grammar and Usage
- The Economist Style Guide – Style and usage at your finger tips.
- Orango Spell Checker
- The Element’s of Style - Strunk is online too.
- English Grammar Online - Tutorials, lessons and more.
- Online Dictionary of Language Terminology
Facts & Statistics
- RefDesk - Online fact checker, filled with links to all sorts of useful sites.
- InfoPlease -Online encyclopedia
- Encyclopedia Britannica - You no longer have to fill your shelves with volumes A to Z – it’s all right here online.
- AllRefer.com Health Encyclopedia
- Healthopedia.com – Ditto the above
- How Cast – Web site filled with how to videos.
- Fact Monster - Dictionaries, encyclopedia, a homework center and even an analogy of the day.
- Top 100 U.S. Newspapers – For when Yahoo isn’t enough.
- World Almanac – World facts
- Famous Quotes & Authors – Impress everyone on Twitter.
- U.S. Census Bureau – Statistics and stuff
- Acronym Finder – So you don’t have to keep Googling letters to find out what they mean.
- 10,000 Year Calendar - You never know when you need to look a few years into the future.
- The World Factbook - For 2008
- The Occupational Handbook - 2008 – 2009
- Bible Gateway - An online searchable Bible
- The Celebrity Almanac – Not that we really care about Tom Cruise’s real name
- The Old Farmer’s Almanac - It hasn’t let us down yet.
- Libweb - Connect to libraries around the world.
- The Internet Public Library – Everything you need to know about everything.
- CIA – The World FactBook – Lots of good stuff about the Government, people and economy.
- Hoover’s Online – Profiles of more than 10,000 American businesses.
- Google Maps – Getting you where you need to go.
- Dot What? – Details on cyber extensions
- Getty Thesaurus of Geographical Names
- Flags of the World - You never know when you’ll need to know
- The Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- The Internet Law Library - Links to lots of legal stuff
- NASA Thesaurus - Spacey terminology
What are your favorite free online reference tools for writers?
- Name one thing that has always fascinated you.
- What is the most valuable item or largest sum of money you have ever found?
- Name one thing in your life you hope you never have to see or encounter.
- Growing up, what career goals or dreams of accomplishments did you have? Did any of them come to be, how many did you abandon or revise along the way?
- Write about a time in your life when things weren’t the way you or others thought they should be.
- Describe an odd or unusual writing habit or ritual you or someone you know has.
- Can a book really be judged by its cover? Explain in as much detail as possible why or why not.
- Describe a moment in your life you laughed so hard you cried, had a drink come out your nose, or peed in your pants.
- Detail the greatest prank you have ever pulled off successfully.
- What musical medium did you grow up with; vinyl records, CD’s, or MP3′s?
- How long was your longest inter-personal relationship? Was it friendship, family, romantic, or something else?
- What is your biggest ambition in life?
- What is your lucky number, and why is it so lucky?
- How long have you been able to live off the grid? No e-mail, Internet, electricity, running water, etc.
- What is your favorite chess piece?
- Do you have a daily or weekly routine that you follow?
- What is the worst event in history to have ever taken place, in your opinion? Could something like this possibly happen again?
- How would you classify your ideal living or working situation?
- Who in your life has been the best positive influence on your life?
- What things do you enjoy most in your life?
- Is there anything you, ‘just know’ and have no explainable or rational way to explain how you know it?
- What was the most intimate or personal question you have ever asked someone, or have been asked of you?
- What Lo-Fi or non-electronic / old-school things from the past do you still enjoy?
- Describe your first intimate experience.
- If you could start your life over from birth, what is the one thing you would change about yourself?
- Have you ever wanted to trade places with someone else for a day, week, or a lifetime? If so, who was it and why?
- Name something you’ve always wanted that you will never ever have.
- Describe a time in your life when you were lost (figuratively or not).
- Do you believe the end of the world will come to pass during your lifetime?
- If you could choose to believe in Science or religion, which would you choose and why?
- Is there ever justification for revenge? What things in your life have made you vengeful?
- Have you ever risked your life to save the life of someone else? Would you if the situation arose?
- What is your biggest insecurity?
- In your own opinion, what is the greatest downfall of modern society.
- How long have you gone without something necessary to your survival (food, shelter, water, sleep, or clothing)?
- Assuming you’ve lost your virginity, at what age did you lose it?
- Are you or someone else the black sheep of the family?
- Is beauty skin deep or does it come from somewhere else?
- How good are you at keeping secrets? Spill 5 closely guarded secrets.
- Did you ever have your own ‘special place’ as a child?
- What are your beliefs in regards to cosmetic or plastic surgery?
- Do you believe in reincarnation?
- Have you ever been homeless, or had no place to call your home?
- Has anyone (besides yourself) ever read your journal, either with or without your permission?
- What rumor(s) were spread about you? Were any of them true?
- What are the best and worst memories of childhood?
- Have you ever had a crush on an authority figure (i.e. boss, teacher, etc.).
- Have you ever felt as if you were a failure or somehow ‘failed’ someone you care about?
- Do you have any irrational fears?
- Describe your relationships with your family/friends/parents/significant other.
- Name something you lost or gave away that can never be replaced.
- What 5 websites do you visit often, and why?
- Name a totally useless possession and how you came to acquire it.
- What music album would be used for a movie about your life?
- List your bad habits and/or addictions and what you have tried to rid yourself of them.
- If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be, and what would you do if later on you changed your mind?
- What are your religious beliefs? Have they changed, or have they always stayed the same?
- When was your last food craving, and what did you crave?
- Who was your first crush and what made them special?
- Name your most cherished childhood memory.
- Turn to an entry in your journal or diary from a year or more ago. What has changed and what has stayed the same since then?
- What is one thing nobody knows about you because nobody ever cared to ask?
- Robert Frost write a poem titled The Road Not Taken. Name a road you’ve always wanted to travel. Where do you hope it takes you, and what might you see on the way?
- Name one thing you always wanted to do, but haven’t. What has prevented you from doing it?
- Write about your first kiss. Was it everything you wished or hoped it would be?
- What was the worst mistake or decision you have ever made in life? What could you have done differently?
- What song was stuck in your head recently, and what were you doing at the time that made you think of it?
- Describe 5 things you want to see or do before it’s too late.
- Write about something you now know that you wish you knew earlier in life. How could this knowledge have helped you?
- Write about your greatest fear.
- Name one thing you feel brings out the good in people.
- Describe a time in your life when everything turned out fine, despite the odds.
- If you invented a device that could fix one problem you are facing now, would you use it? What problem would you like to solve?
- Write about the last time you spoke to your best friend. What did you talk about?
- Describe a time you felt alone.
- Name something you found; what was it and where did you find it?
- What’s on your calendar for tomorrow?
- What is the most annoying sound you have ever heard?
- Describe your first job.
- What is the one thing you cannot live without?
- Quote the nicest thing anyone has ever said about you.
- Are you afraid of the dark? Why or why not?
- Describe the longest amount of time you have ever been away from home.
- Write about a recent adventure or travels.
- Who did you idolize growing up?
- Name a celebrity or famous person you wish would take you out on a date.
- Describe your daily routine when you get out of bed in the morning.
- What was the longest amount of time you have spent waiting on-line for something? What was it, and was it worth the wait?
- Name one thing you have always been good at doing.
- What is your favorite season, and why?
- What was the title of the last book you read?
- List your biggest regrets.
- Have you ever seen a ghost?
- Describe your note-taking style and habits.
- Do you believe that we are all here for a reason? What might the reason be?
- What comes to mind when someone uses the phrase prolonging the magic?
- Have you ever done something just to feel the danger, or to feel alive?
- What is your favorite cliché?
- What are all your thoughts on god?
- How do rainy days make you feel?
- What is the most amount of money you have had at one time?
- Write a celebrity crush list.
- What is the most amazing thing you have ever seen, heard, or experienced?
- What effect does music have on you?
- What did you learn today? What did you learn yesterday?
- What 5 traits do people first notice when they meet you for the first time?
- Have you ever carved your name or initials into a tree or stone?
- Democracy, communism, or socialism? Defend your choice.
- Does Never Never Land really exist?
- Where is a great place to get breakfast?
- List 3 things that went right (or wrong) today.
- What is the best method of travel, and in what ways have you traveled?
- If you could tell the world just one thing, what would it be?
- What were your best and worst subjects in school or college?
- Describe the most outrageous thing anyone has dared you to do.
- Ice cream: chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry?
- What historical events happened the year you were born?
- Pick up a random object that has special meaning to you and describe it in as much detail as possible.
- Write about a recent visit to a museum or art gallery.
- What food items do you consider staples in a well-balanced diet?
- Describe your feelings in regards to an issue in today’s society, and what would be done to fix it.
- If you had only one wish, what would you wish for?
- If you could tell the world just one thing, what would you say?
- Share a dirty little secret about yourself (or someone else).
- Name a time when you broke a rule or law. Did you get caught, or did you get away with it?
- Have you ever gone skinny dipping?
- Name something you would like to devote more time to seeing or doing.
- What is the name of your favorite book, magazine, or publication?
- Describe your first car.
- Thunderstorms… Inspiring or scary?
Here’s a few handfuls of things that every writer should know…
1. You are a Legion.
The Internet is 55% porn, and 45% writers. You are not alone, and that’s a thing both good and bad. It’s bad because you can never be the glittery little glass pony you want to be. It’s bad because the competition out there is as thick as an ungroomed 1970s pubic tangle. It’s good because, if you choose to embrace it, you can find a community. A community of people who will share their neuroses and their drink recipes. And their, ahem, “fictional” methods for disposing of bodies.
2. You better put the ‘Fun’ in ‘Fundamentals’
A lot of writers try to skip over the basics and leap fully-formed out of their own head-wombs. Bzzt. Wrongo. Learn your basics. Mix up lose/loose? They’re/their/there? Don’t know where to plop that comma, or how to use those quotation marks? That’s like trying to be a world-class chef but you don’t know how to cook a goddamn egg. Writing is a mechanical act first and foremost. It is the process of putting words after other words in a way that doesn’t sound or look like inane gibberish. This is something I can be absolutely horrible at but have been trying my best.
3. Skill Over Talent
Some writers do what they do and are who they are because they were born with some magical storytelling gland that they can flex like their pubococcygeus, ejaculating brilliant storytelling and powerful linguistic voodoo with but a twitch of their taint. This is a small minority of all writers, which means you’re probably not that. The good news is, even talent dies without skill. You can practice what you do. You practice it by writing, by reading, by living a life worth writing about. You must always be learning, gaining, improving.
4. This Is A Slow Process
Nobody becomes a writer overnight. Well, I’m sure somebody did, but that person’s head probably went all asplodey from paroxysms of joy, fear, paranoia, guilt and uncertainty. Celebrities can be born overnight. Writers can’t. Writers are made — forged, really, in a kiln of their own madness and insecurities — over the course of many, many moons. The writer you are when you begin is not the same writer you become.
5. Nobody ‘Gets In’ The Same Way
Your journey to becoming a writer is all your own. You own it for good and bad. Part of it is all that goofy crap that forms the building blocks of your very persona — mean Daddy, ugly dog, smelly house, pink hair, doting mother, bagger at the local Scoot-N-Shop. The other part is the industry part, the part where you dig your own tunnel through the earth and detonate it behind you. No two writers will sit down and tell the exact same story of their emergence from the wordmonkey cocoon. You aren’t a beautiful and unique snowflake, except when you are.
6. Your Writing Has Whatever You Give It
Value is a tricky word. Loaded down with a lot of baggage. It speaks to dollar amounts. It speaks to self-esteem. It speaks to moral and spiritual significance. The value of your wordmonkeying has a chameleonic (not a word, shut up) component: whatever value you give it, that’s what value it will have. You give your work away, that’s what it’s worth. You hate your work, that’s what it’s worth. Put more plainly: what you do has value, so claim value for what you do. Put even more plainly: don’t work for free.
7. You Are Your Own Worst Enemy
It’s not the gatekeepers. Not the audience. Not the reviewers. Not your mother, your baby, your dog. Not your work schedule, your sleep schedule. If you’re not succeeding at writing, you’ve nobody to blame for yourself. You’re the one who needs to super-glue her booty to the chair. You’re the one who needs to pound away at his keyboard until the words come out. It’s like Michael Jackson sang: “I took my baby on a Saturday bang.” … no, wait, that’s not it. “I’m talkin’ ’bout the man in the mirror.” Yeah. Yes. That’s the one. Shamon.
8. Your Voice Is Your Own
Write like you write, like you can’t help but write, and your voice will become yours and yours alone. It’ll take time but it’ll happen as long as you let it. Own your voice, for your voice is your own. Once you know where your voice lives, you no longer have to worry so much about being derivative.
9. Cultivate Calluses
The writing life is a tough one. Edits can be hard to get. Rejections, even worse. Not everybody respects what you do. Hell, a lot of people don’t even care. Build up that layer of blubber. Form a mighty exoskeleton. Expect to be pelted in the face with metaphorical (er, hopefully metaphorical) ice-balls. It’s a gauntlet. Still gotta walk it, though.
10. Stones Are Polished By Agitation
Even the roughest stone is made smooth by agitation, motion, erosion. Yeah, the writing life can be tough, but it needs to be. Edits are good. Rejections are, too. Write with a partner. Submit yourself to criticism. Creative agitation can serve you well. Embrace it. Look into that dark hole for answers, not fear.
11. The Worst Thing Your Work Can Be Is Boring
You’ve got all the words in the world at your disposal, and an infinite number of arrangements in which to use them. So don’t be boring. Who wants to read work that’s as dull as a bar of soap?
12. No Wait. The Worst Thing Your Work Can Be Is Unclear
Clarity is king. Say what you mean. You’re telling a story, be it in a book, a film, a game, an article, a diner table placemat. Don’t make the reader stagger woozily through a mire just to grasp what you’re saying.
13. No Such Thing As Bad Writing Advice
There’s only: advice that works for you, and advice that doesn’t. It’s like going to Home Depot and trying to point out the “bad tools.” Rather, some tools work for the job. Most don’t. Be confident enough to know when a tool feels right in your hand, and when it might instead put out your eye.
14. Quit Quitting
It’s all too easy to start something and not finish it. Remember when I said you were legion? It’s true, but if you want to be separated from 90% of the other writers (or “writers” depending on how pedantic you choose to be) out there, then just finish the crap that you started. Stop abandoning your children. You wouldn’t call yourself a runner if you quit every race your ran halfway through. Finishing is a good start. Stop looking for the escape hatch; pretend your work in progress just plain doesn’t have one.
15. Hope Will Save You
The hard boot is better than the tickling feather when it comes time to talk about the realities of writing, but at the end of the day, the thing that gets you through it all is hope and optimism. You have to stay positive. Writers are given over to a kind of moribund gloom. Can’t let the penmonkey blues get you down. Be positive. Stay sane. The only way through is with wide-open eyes and a rigor mortis grin. Don’t be one of those writers who isn’t having any fun. Don’t let writing be the albatross around your neck. Misery is too easy to come by, so don’t invite it. If writing doesn’t make you happy, you maybe shouldn’t be a writer. It’s a lot of work, but you need to let it be a lot of play, too. Otherwise, what’s the fucking point? Right? Go push a broom, sell a car, paint a barn. If you’re a writer, then write. And be happy you can do so.
You should all know by now that we are all about stacking bracelets on our wrists. The more, the better. In fact . . . the most, the best! With that being said, we’ll show you how to master a version of the ever so popular Chan Luu wrap bracelet. It’s so simple and addicting, you’ll soon be churning out these wristlets with your eyes closed. Clearly this arm party train isn’t stopping and it’s about time you get on board!
You’ll need (for a double wrapped bracelet) :
- 44 inches of 1.5mm leather cord
- 12 inches of brass ball chain or crystal chain
- 58 inches of waxed linen cord (scroll down in link)
- a 1/4″ brass hex nut
- a pair of scissors
Fold the length of leather cording in half to form a loop. The loop should fit around the hex nut, which serves as the clasp. Run the tip of the waxed linen upwards along the leather cord and towards the loop. Then wrap around the base of the loop at least 5-6 times, working downwards in the opposite direction. This secures the waxed linen cord and is the start of the bracelet.
Place the ball chain along the leather cording with the end of the chain meeting the end of the wrap. Holding the ball chain against the leather cord, wrap the linen around tightly.
Continue wrapping while checking it for fit around the wrist.
When you have reached the end of the ball chain wrap the linen cording around the leather strands 2-3 more times. Tie a knot with all three strands.
Thread the hex nut through the strands and tie a second knot.
Trim with scissors and your wrap bracelet is finished!!
The materials are listed for a double wrap bracelet. For a single or triple wrapped bracelet, divide the measurements by 2 and multiply by accordingly. Experiment with crystal or other types of chain!
It’s a party!
So today I made my first attempt at sushi. It actually didn’t turn out half bad…
Here’s what to do:
6 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups uncooked Japanese medium-grain sushi rice*
4 cups water
5 sheets or sushi nori (seaweed in big squares)**
1 large cucumber
2 to 3 avocados
Fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Cooked crab meat or imitation crab sticks***
Wasabi (Japanese horseradish)
king California Rolls:
(1) Lay the Bamboo sushi-roll mat on a cutting board with bamboo strips going horizontally from you.
(2) Place a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the bamboo mat (shiny side down). Place the Roasted-Seaweed (Nori)on top of the plastic wrap.
(3) Spread a thin layer, 3/4 to 1 cup, of Japanese medium-grain sushi rice over 3/4 of the nori leaving approximately one inch of uncovered nori at each end Note: It helps to wet your fingers with cold water when you are patting the rice onto the nori.
(4) Arrange strips of avocado and cucumber along the center of the rice; top with crab meat.
Making Inside-Out Rolls – After spreading the rice on the nori, sprinkle with poppy or roasted sesame seeds. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap on top. Lifting with the bottom plastic wrap, turn over the nori/rice sheet onto the bamboo rolling mat. Remove top plastic wrap and proceed as below.
Rolling California Rolls:
Placing your fingers on the ingredients, carefully bring the bottom end of the rolling mat and the plastic wrap up and over the ingredients (tucking the end of the nori to start a roll). Pull back the rolling mat and plastic wrap, as necessary, so it does not get rolled into the sushi. NOTE: Roll tightly with firm pressure.
Continue rolling the sushi and pulling back the rolling mat and plastic wrap, as necessary, until you have approximately 1 to 2 inches of the top of the nori showing. Rub a small amount of cold water on the edge of the nori and bring the nori around so that it completes the sushi roll.
Gently squeeze the rolling mat around the sushi roll until it is firm and forms an even roll (be carefully not to squeeze too hard, as you may crush the ingredients or squeezed them out).
Wrap the plastic wrap around the roll and set aside until ready to cut. Refrigerate or for longer storage. Repeat with remaining nori sheets to make additional rolls.
slice the sushi roll first down the middle. From there you can cut it into 6ths or 8ths, whichever you prefer (wet the knife between each cut to make it easier to cut and keep the rice from sticking to the knife).