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    Seeds of Writing Inspiration

    I imagine that many of you who drive a car, particularly those of you who have a regular daily commute, will appreciate this scenario: as you near or reach your destination, you become acutely aware of your surroundings, and wonder "How the heck did I get here?"

    While your body was maneuvering your vehicle down familiar streets or along a monotonous stretch of highway, your brain seemed to have disengaged itself from this task and gone elsewhere. Perhaps you were playing out a scene in your novel, or rehashing an argument you had with a loved one the day before. Or maybe you were trying to figure out how you could possibly have enough money to pay all of your upcoming expenses, or how you could find enough time to accomplish everything you wanted or needed to do that day.

    We refer to this state as being "lost in thought." And I suppose it's natural for us writers to spend a good deal of time there, that place where we mull over ideas for future articles, where fictional characters grow, where our creativity resides.

    But the real seeds for our writing ideas truly lie outside of our inner musings, at our fingertips, within seeing and hearing distance. They exist in conversations we overhear or participate in, in the smells and aromas that swirl around us, in the prickly chill of the winter air and in the sharp edges of office buildings against a cloudless blue sky. Ideas germinate during those times when we are fully in the present moment, completely cognizant of where we are, whom we're with, what we're doing and how we're feeling.

    In order to tap into that endless source of inspiration, we need to emerge from our meditative states and become completely, fully aware of the present moment as frequently as possible. We need to gather all the seeds we can find outside of and around us, in order to feed and nurture our imaginations.

    Next time you catch yourself "lost in thought," bring yourself abruptly back into the present moment by focusing on each of your physical senses, one at a time, as follows:

    What exactly do you see? Describe the color of the sky, or the walls in the room where you're sitting, or the car directly in front of you at the red light. Pick one person, and write about him or her in detail, from head to toe.

    Next, what do your hear when you're paying attention rather than daydreaming? The noisy dog a few houses away? The ticking of a clock? Snippets of conversation? The whoosh of tires against pavement?

    Now take a deep breath through your nose, and think or write about what you smell. For example, the other day, I was able to tell that a pencil had just been sharpened, simply by the distinct aroma that the wood and lead give off. Does what you smell remind you of another time or place?

    Move your focus to your sense of taste. Even if you are not drinking or eating anything at the moment, examine the inside of your mouth. Is it wet or dry? Can you still taste the coffee you just drank, the chips you just finished eating? Does it tickle when you rub the tip of your tongue against the roof or your mouth?

    The bottom line is this: the more time we spend reliving yesterday or worrying about tomorrow, the more we miss an abundance of these seeds. The less time we spend "lost in thought," the more we'll find to write about.

    Here's to your writing success.

    Copyright © 2003 Mary Anne Hahn

    Mary Anne Hahn is editor of WriteSuccess, a free biweekly ezine of ideas, information and inspiration for writers. She is also building a Web site that hopes will someday be one of the best online resources for new and experienced writers alike. To check out her growing site and subscribe to her ezine visit http://writesuccess.com.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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