Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Fuel of Stories

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! As was the case last year, I've come up to the San Francisco Bay Area to visit family. Because I wanted to avoid the chaos that is the airports at Thanksgiving, I drove. I felt better about my choice when my sister and I drove past the SF airport on Friday night and saw the massive line of cars waiting to get to the terminal.

I’m well-practiced at driving long distances. I’ve gone back and forth across country (alone) several times, and I’ve made the drive between Northern and Southern California a dozen times or more, driving and as a passenger. I cope through methods like coffee drinking, good music, podcasts, and creative corn nut consumption, to name a few.

But on the most recent drive, I found that I was missing the most important coping skill of all. You see, my imagination was malfunctioning.

It was very perplexing. When I tried to consider the stories I had in progress, my mind seemed only able to move within the bounds of existing scenes and plotlines. I couldn't even garner interest in my silly sci-fi/fantasy stories that I never intend to write down. It was hours and hours of pure torture. How do non-writers survive such long periods of boredom? 

Near the end of the drive, steel-gray clouds drifting over butter-yellow hills caught my fancy and re-fired my imagination. But that wasn't until hour seven of eight. My imagination seems to be back to normal now, but I do not want to tolerate this condition again on the eight hours back to San Diego.

And so, in this time of stuffing our bodies full of food, I decided to look up and share ways that we might feed our imagination. Not literally - that imagining food diet sounds kind of silly to me.

What works for inspiration for me? Beautiful images, unusual places, and nature walks. I listed some of my favorite triggers for stories in this post. Susan just blogged about the power of the what-if

To further fuel your imagination, here are some lovely images from Wikimedia Commons' Picture of the Year for 2011.

This is my favorite, because it makes me think of a world frozen over:

And here are some quotes about enhancing your imagination:

From Seven Sentences:
One simple way of increasing your creativity is to use the law of opposites . When you come up with an idea of what to write, of how to play a character, or of what to paint on that canvas… STOP……ask yourself what is the opposite of that idea; now create something about that.  
 From W. I. B. Beveridge, quoted at
Many people will not tolerate a state of doubt, either because they will not endure the mental discomfort of it or because they regard it as evidence of inferiority.
To be genuinely thoughtful, we must be willing to sustain and protract that state of doubt which is the stimulus to thorough enquiry, so as not to accept an idea or make a positive assertion of a belief, until justifying reasons have been found.
And from Suzanna Stinnet:
Notice in Categories: Start by deciding what it is you want to notice today. Once I did this exercise by actively looking at noses. People's noses, dog's noses, noses on billboards and beaks on birds. Crowdwatching while only noticing noses is absolutely hysterical. You bring your focus to one thing and it compounds. You begin to notice many aspects, and suddenly you can't see anything but noses, noses, noses!! The laughter this induced is another great component to brain health, inducing circulation and releasing many natural chemicals related to brain stimulation. Now, while you are noticing and observing these noses, tell yourself about them. Engage the storytelling part of your brain by actively using descriptors. See the details. Make up new words to tell yourself about the noses everywhere in your environment.

So Happy Thanksgiving again to you all, and I hope you remember to nourish your mind as well as your body, and that there is no such thing as too much pie.

Bonus wikimedia picture: yaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!


  1. Happy Thanksgiving, Sabrina. I'm glad your creative block went away. I've often thought the same thing about people who don't create stories in their heads. They must get SO bored.

    My favorite picture is the one with the boat. Love it! On our yearly Thankgiving walk, my son and I discussed places to hide a sheath knife, and how it would vary between the sexes. Then my niece and I discussed how if you cut a shadow it would probably bleed light. I love my family!

  2. Wow, those pictures are amazing. Definitely thought provoking. I'm glad you got your imagination back. I don't know how anyone can survive without one.

    Happy post-Thanksgiving! :)

  3. Once every two to four weeks, I leave my kids with my parents and make a two and a half hour trek to northern Colorado to drop my husband for work. He catches a ride to North Dakota with friends that live there, and I turn around and drive another two and a half hours home. This usually takes place in the middle of the night, and the drive home always feels longer because I'm by myself. Normally this is when I work out the kinks in whatever stories I'm developing, but the last couple of trips I blanked out the entire way. It was awful! I feel your pain. I hope your drive back to San Diego was full of inspiring sights. And happy Thanksgiving!

  4. I know what you mean. I have a favorite story I will never write, because I use it to think about in order to fall asleep on stressful nights. Apparently moving is stressful, because I've worn that story idea out.

    I feel ya.


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