I am a fan of Roy Peter Clark‘s The Glamour of Grammar because he makes grammar fun. He has a new book out next week called Help! For Writers: 210 Solutions to the Problems Every Writer Faces (one says you should reward yourself after your first hour of writing so I’m all over that). I was very happy when he agreed to do a guest post about:
Three fun things to jumpstart your writing that won’t get you arrested.
1. Steal magazines from the doctor’s office or barber shop.
Don’t feel guilty. Chances are you have been waiting for more than an hour for a grumpy nurse to call your name. All you get for your inconvenience is a stack of crispy or soggy magazines, some that are months and months old. Get some payback and a good story idea at the same time. Flip through some of the mags, especially ones in a category that you may not often read. Look for something that grabs your interest, a surprising trend that can be localized. If you feel bad about snatching the magazine, quietly rip out the relevant pages.
2. Read an alternative weekly newspaper, from the back to the front.
The back has the best stuff: ads for adult businesses dominate (so to speak), but they mix gloriously with ads for astrological readings, pain management, outpatient drug detox, cheap rooms to rent. Pay special attention to items you don’t understand at first glance: What is Bhakti Massage or Watsu? Bingo: “Lingerie models needed for Comedy/Horror videos. No nudity required. No thongs or g-strings. Ladies with large visible tattoos need not apply. $200 cash for 5 hours.” Hmm. With Halloween approaching…
3. Go to an event and watch the audience instead.
Take any event, from a campaign speech, to a high school football game, to a recital for young musicians, to a church service. We are so used to seeing events from predictable vantage points that we miss the opportunity to check the rear view mirror. It bugs my wife when I turn around in church and watch the congregation behind me. I’m sure it puzzles others in the pews. But what a revelation to see churchgoers in all their variety: teenagers whispering and flirting; farting oldsters lost in their rosaries; the guy wearing the golf pants checking his watch.
Roy’s tips are fun and creative, and if you think you could use a copy, you’re in luck. Hachette has allowed me to give away three copies. Enter by leaving a comment about something you often struggle with in your writing. I’ll take entries until next Friday, September 23, 5 p.m. PST. US & Canada only.