I’m the first to admit that when I’m loading up Facebook, more often than not I’m looking for distraction. Thanks to one such moment today, I was reminded that even in our distractions we can find inspiration…and opportunity. This beautiful image is the unexpected opportunity I found today. When I came upon it, I realized as smoothly as a lightning flash that it’s the perfect illustration of what my protagonist, Anilyn, wishes she could do. It’s an excellent image for me to keep returning to as I revise, a reminder to continually ask myself how what Anilyn says, does, and experiences connects back to the core struggle she has within herself and with the world around her. It’s also a reminder for Anilyn, that as her Blossoming grows closer she should always be on the lookout for a way to get outside the lines.
When I’m working with other writers, the word “opportunity” tends to come up often our conversation. Writers create opportunities with every character, every object, every sentence, every word choice, and so on. Sometimes we’re aware of those opportunities in the moment, because we put them on the page purposefully to be a part of our greater plan. Many times, however, as the words flow out we don’t see the ways we can leverage these tiny details and choices that we make. Inside these unseen opportunities there’s a gold mine waiting to be discovered if we just have a way to take notice. So, when I conference with other writers, I always take care to point out any opportunities I see that they have yet to leverage, just in case they haven’t noticed them yet. And whenever someone else is reading my work, I’m always grateful to them when they do the same. A second pair of eyes is always a fantastic way to discover the unused opportunities in what we’ve written.
There’s a second kind of opportunity that we need to track as writers – opportunities that haven’t been written into our stories yet. These are the ideas and inklings we have, and also the things we see, hear, do, and find. It we don’t find a way to keep track of all these flickers of inspiration that can potentially connect to our stories, they might get lost. One of the ways I try to keep track of these unwritten opportunities is by using a scrapbook. Pictured here are two pages of a scrapbook that I started when I began my research for the Second Coming of Life, one that I still use to this day. As you can see, it’s filled with quotes, small objects, photographs, whatever crosses my path that is an unwritten opportunity for the world I’m currently writing. That way, when when I find myself with writer’s block, or unsure of where to go next, or that brilliant idea I had is on the tip of my pen but just out of my reach, I know where I can find it.
Over the summer, I’ll be offering more ways that writers can keep track of opportunities written and unwritten – it’s one of the best ways we can nurture and grow our stories. Or, in the case of this fantastic photo I inadvertently stumbled upon on Facebook, it can be one of the best ways to focus our goals. Now that this picture was nice enough to help me crystallize the main focus of my revisions, doing them doesn’t seem like such muddy work anymore.