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Friday, December 07, 2007

 

A THOUSAND WORDS ABOUT NOTHING?

By Carrie Hulce

So many times we all feel like we have writer's block. I know I have been there more times than I can count.

I have to admit, I have tried different techniques. Some work, some of them don’t, which, is unfortunate, but it does happen.

Not too long ago I got to thinking to myself. “I have nothing to write about.” I wanted to smack myself. There is always something to write about. Then I thought, “But what?” I looked around my dining room, then looked around my living room. I saw my glasses laying on a magazine I had been reading through. It came to me. I can write about “nothing.”

I know now you probably think I’m crazy, but nothing is actually something. Here is an example of what to do.

• First look around the room you are in, pick an object example: remote control to the television, the cup of warm coffee you might be drinking.

• Grab a pad of paper and a pen/pencil. Write down things about the remote example: the color, how many buttons it has, what company is it made by, does it belong specifically to your television or one of the many movie players you have, or is it a universal remote. How long have you had the remote?

• Now branch out from there, do research on that particular object, find out when it was invented, find out who the inventor was.

By now you are probably laughing, but it works. You can take anything and write about it. It just takes time.

When you want to be a writer, you need to take the time and make the time to write. It doesn’t matter if you feel you don’t have anything to write about. Write about “nothing” and you will find that there is actually something there.

I have found this exercise to work rather well. I have found several story ideas develop just in an apple.

I hope that for all of our wonderful writers out there, that this technique helps for each of you.

Have fun writing about “Nothing.” You will see, you have something to do.

1,000 WORDS ABOUT NOTHING!
AN APPLE

They say: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But, does it really?

How do we know that statement to be true. Has it been proven? Have there been a number of people in the world asked to eat an apple a day? What kind of apple? Or is it any kind of apple, to make sure that the person has some variety.

Apples are so juicy and have great flavor. They make wonderful pies, are versatile in most dishes, like stuffing, salads, stuffed in poultry or other meats. Ever wonder if there was a cook book put out just about apples? How many different cook books?

Over the years, I have eaten my fill of apples and still do. Red, Green, Crab, Golden, Macintosh, Cortland, Red Delicious, Granny Smith. The names for different types of apples seem to be endless; I’m sure a researcher spent many years gathering up tons of information on each apple.

I can remember sitting up in a crab apple tree hiding from my cousins, waiting to hit them with the hard unripe ones. Or lying on a large branch, several of the crab apples lying on my belly waiting for me to eat their tart sour skin. Yum! Oh, the tummy ache afterwards. Then vowing never again to eat another crab apple, but to do it again the following visit to my grandparents’ home.

My worst experience with an apple, picking one off of a tree in an orchard, looking at it not seeing a problem, how perfect the apple looked. Then, I took a huge bite, juice spilling down my chin, taking another look at the apple, seeing half of a warm wiggling towards me. YUCK! Screaming and dropping the apple, crying to my grandmother how horrible I was starting to feel, because I ate a worm.

How about baking that first apple pie ever? First preparing the crust, peeling several apples of different types, slicing them carefully so that each slice looked to be the same size as the next, layering the slices inside the crust, then sprinkling each layer with cinnamon and sugar. A little lemon juice to help maintain the brilliant color of the meat of the apple. How lovely. Remembering how tired I felt after completing that first pie. Presenting the pie to my new husband, showing him how well I could cook. Boy, did I feel accomplished then. To laugh now, because he does ninety-five percent of all the baking in our home.

The most painful memory of all and one that I will remember for all times, sharing a slice of pie with my grandfather a few days before he died. How we joked about Christmas, how we made plans on where everyone would stay, when we came back for the holiday to visit. The hot cocoa that he made special, spiced with cinnamon and apple sauce. I’ll have you know, I thought he was crazy at first when I watched him drop that spoonful in, but it was so good. I couldn’t believe it. Chocolate apple cocoa, yum. Oh, the pain he was in, how I wished I could make him feel better. How I wished I could take away all of his stresses and worries so that he and my grandmother could still be together. How I wish that day would have never ended. Only to give him one more hug, one more kiss on the cheek, one more joke to tell, or a walk down the street.

Apples are the fruit of life, according to most, and it is also the fruit of knowledge.

Gosh, how about making apple sauce for the first time? I burned it to the pan, how messy that was. All the sugar that I added to it, that I didn’t need to. My dad ate it with a smile, said it was good. I couldn’t believe how nice he was to lie to me. I knew how bad it tasted, I ate some myself.

Food fight, apple sauce being flung by spoons around the cafeteria at my son’s school. He was only in pre-school, but, still what a mess they all made. The kids were mad that we made them clean it all up. The teachers and parents got together later, only for a good laugh, seeing their expressions when they all got caught having such a good time, flinging their apple sauce at one another.

Here is another interesting thought. How about the saying: “The apple of my eye.” Gosh, that goes way back. I wonder how often that got said by people. When did it stop being used as a phrase? How many people still use it today? Can you imagine your eyes being filled with apples? That must be painful. I wonder are they red or green apples, or did you get yellow ones in your eye.

Apple flavored sausages with cheese in them too. I tried them, I don’t think I even tasted the apple. I remembered tasting the cheese and the spices though. I wonder if the creator may have just been pulling our legs. Or if the sausage I got just didn’t have any apple in it after all. Shouldn’t the maker, check to make sure those sausages had plenty of apple in each one for people to taste.

Apple Cider vinegar, is great for salads, and hey I heard it is great for weight loss too. I’ve seen apple cider vinegar tablets or how about the special bottles in the health departments of most stores. I would think that must taste awful after a while though. I bet after a while you would get tired of it and not want to do that as your diet any more. I know that Apple Cider is also great to use in marinades, it tenderizes meat very well.

*** Above is just an example of how to write 1,000 words about nothing. As you can see, each paragraph is about apples in some way. But when you look at it as a whole, you will find several ideas for stories.

Make sure if you use this exercise, you try to get as close as you can to 1,000 words. Don’t worry about your sentence structure or misspelled words. The important thing is to try and come up with different ideas for your base subject, in this case being the Apple.

Happy Writing!- Carrie Hulce

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9 Comments:

Blogger Diary of a Fiction Writer said...

As I read your take on combating writers block, it reminded me of Stephen King��s take on wb. . . the scariest moment is always just before you start [writing].After that, things can only get better.

Then I got to wondering what macabre thoughts Mr. King might have about apples. Now I��ve got the makings of what might turn out to be my first piece of horror writing.

See what you started ��.

6:05 AM  
Anonymous Carrie said...

The important thing. I got you to think and to discover a new technique. Only happy to help a fellow writer. :)

Now you have me thinking about Stephen King, hmmm, sounds like some research to be done. Now where was my pencil.

Happy writing- Carrie

6:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great advice, to just sit down and write. We never know what inspiration we'll find in some of the most mundane objects or topics.

10:54 AM  
Anonymous Carrie said...

Hi Del,

Happy to help. I hope that you will find inspiration in something around you. :)

Another tip, if you have to go to the doctor's or are sitting in a waiting room some where, make sure you have a pad of paper with you, there are things in these places that may inspire you as well. For example, a little girl with chicken pox (itchy I know) you could write about her bumps, or how about the man that is waiting for a car with a flat tire, his socks are two different colors. You could right about his socks.

Happy writing!-Carrie

11:24 AM  
Blogger Cher'ley said...

I had to have an apple before I could finish reading. "The Apple of My Eye" is a Bibical quote.

I think I have the opposite of writer's block.

Thanks for the interesting tidbits on apples. There certainly are many ways to branch out from what you've given us.

12:51 PM  
Blogger Angie said...

That great and versatile writer G.K. Chesterton would agree with you on the value of making much ado about "nothing." In his introduction to "Tremendous Trifles," he says:

"Let us exercise the eye until it learns to see startling facts that run across the landscape as plain as a painted fence. Let us be ocular athletes. Let us learn to write essays on a stray cat or a coloured cloud. I have attempted some such thing in what follows; but anyone else may do it better, if anyone else will only try."

Probably not many could do better than Chesterton, but that shouldn't keep us from trying!

2:14 PM  
Anonymous Carrie said...

As writer's we are suppose to be observant about what is around us. But, a lot of times that just isn't the case. We overlook so much. As said in my original article. Something as simple as an Apple, being able to branch out from that topic and what I came up with was just a way for me and hopefully many others to warm up.

Even if it is to help get us snacking healthier, hey, its a step to better health maybe. :)

I am happy that this topic is getting so many to think about the "nothing" that is around us.

Angel,
great take on the "much ado about nothing."

Happy Writing- Carrie

2:52 PM  
Blogger Angela said...

Great post Carrie!

This is the perfect example of stream-of-consciousness writing. By focusing on one thing in the room and simply writing, you can unleash so many memories, descriptions, and thoughts--it's almost like you've trapped that moment in time on paper.

And, your "1,000 words about nothing," actually ended up being something:

-You examined a common phrase and questioned the history behind it.

-You've told readers the uses of apples in cooking and in play.

-You recalled several memories from when you were a kid: being pelted by an unripe apple (ouch!), and the all too vivid memory of eating a worm! (yuck!)

-You gave us a great anecdote about the first time you baked an apple pie and presented it to your husband, which made me think of how womanly we all try and appear when we're trying to impress! It seems to be ingrained in our gender that we're supposed to know how to cook! Then, you made me laugh by saying that your hubby does most of the cooking now. ;-)

-The most touching story for me was about your grandfather--what a warm and wonderful memory to have. And, it made me want to try putting applesauce in my hot cocoa! I HAVE to try that--you make it sound so good!

-You talked about other colloquial sayings that are thought provoking. When I'm writing, I often look up these sayings and their origination. It's quite bizarre to find out where these things come from! For instance, "apple of my eye," means the center of your eye, or more figuratively it's something cherished above all others. Like most things, this saying came from the bible.

So, all in all, you touched on so many topics within the constraints of a short word count! I love that!

I'm wondering how long it took you to write?

Throughout the day we glance at things and think about them, make connections, and process our own thoughts in a few seconds. You see this everywhere--someone gazing at the impulse items in the checkout line, a person deep in thought on the freeway while sitting in traffic etc. I always wonder exactly what they're thinking about at that moment. To me, that's the beauty of this exercise. Being able to trap a moment in time and record it forever.

Hugs,

Angela

11:39 PM  
Anonymous Carrie said...

Hi Angela,

Thank you so much for your comments.

I just wanted to show our fellow writer's that, if we are more observant about the mundane items around us. We can unleash "hidden" stories.

So many times, we all hit a
situation where we have such a build up of stress that we tell ourselves that we can't write. Well, here is a way to help get the pen moving again. I know how bad I have struggled and how hard it is to get that pen going. It was funny, when I started using this exercise, it was a challenge for me. I was mad at myself at the time, nothing seemed to be going right most of all writing. I had been working on several story ideas but kept getting stuck. At that point, I didn't want to write anymore and was about to chuck the whole idea, until I took a deep breath and came up with this challenge for myself.

By simply taking a single item like an apple, looking at it, tasting it, you already have something to work with right there. You can ask yourself, well, how does it taste? Can I put it into words? From there, your goal is to just let it flow. After you have written a bit, (thanks to our wonderful technology of computers) do a word count, see how many you have written. Set a goal for yourself, it doesn't have to be 1,000 it can be even higher, gosh I am sure so many well established writers could go above and beyond that count. :)

The initial article only took about 45 minutes to write. I wanted to make sure that I gave a good strong explanation and made it well written for our fellow writers.

The exercise was (now I am a fast typist, 85 wpm) 20 minutes of just rambling thoughts about an apple. :)

I am sure that other writers using this will find that they too will be able to get ideas flowing just as rapidly.

Given the recent strike of fellow writers, Who I commend by the way, because if it wasn't for the words that they put down, actors, couldn't act, directors couldn't
direct. The reality that they are trying to create for the viewers wouldn't be possible with out someone who sat down with pen and paper and imagined it.

There are so many people out there that DON'T realize how long it does take for a writer to spill an idea on to paper or into a computer. To create a world for someone to bring to life.

I only hope that I can help take away a bit of stress and help a fellow writer, write once again, that may have gotten stuck like I did. :)

Thank you Angela, for your thoughtfulness and kind words. :)

Happy Writing- Carrie

4:58 AM  

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