Discover more from To Write with Wild Abandon
✍️ How to Sing Blue Silver
or, How to Recognize – and Capture – the Ideas that Will Inspire Your Writing (Part 2)
As the subtitle suggests, this is Part 2 of a two-part series. If you haven’t already, you may want to read Part 1, All That Shimmers, first.
In my last post, All That Shimmers, we talked about that synesthesia-like moment when an idea comes to your attention. Some like Joan Didion called it finding the shimmer. I called it the Blue Silver. I also mentioned that these moments aren’t always lightning bolts. Often, they are quieter moments that can sneak by us if we aren’t paying attention.
I wrote, “The creative mind desperately wants to explore (these shimmering, Blue Silver moments)…” I should clarify that statement. I think for some people, like for Didion, that impulse comes naturally. But it’s not natural for all people. We are like the parent with our attention drawn away saying, “Just a second, just a second” as our child pulls at our sleeve. Problem is, unlike those precocious children, our creative mind will stop pulling immediately and the Blue Silver moment slips away.
You’ve heard of people say, “Listen to your body”? Same thing – except we need to listen to our minds. Most of us, most of the time will come across an interesting idea and say, “Oh, hey – that’s an interesting idea!” and then get on with the rest of their day. (Guilty…) Some more observant may write it down on the back of an envelope, which of course they throw out three days or three weeks later. (Yep, I’m guilty of that, too.)
Lately, as in the last few months, I’ve been trying to take those moments more seriously. That means recognizing when our creative brains are trying to tell us something, and then writing it and exploring it and turning it into something. Right this very second, if at all possible.
Sometimes – many times – it turns out to be nothing.
Sometimes, you can turn that Blue Silver into gold.
Five Steps to a More Creative You
Long-time readers will read the above sub-header and understand my tongue is firmly in cheek. I do believe though that there are certain steps we can take to help us identify those Blue Silver moments.
“Listen to Your Heart; It Knows Where It Wants to Go” – Step 1 is to listen. We all lead busy lives, which means we’re often focused (or trying to focus) on 17 different things at once. The Blue Silver by its very nature can get lost in the background noise. But we can train ourselves to pay attention. And when you see a Blue Silver moment, take a second to think about it. Or, if you’re otherwise engaged such as you’re next in the coffee line or you’re performing delicate surgery, make a mental note of it for later. Just be sure to follow up with yourself!
Submitted for Your Consideration – Step 2 is to identify why this idea grabs you. Is it surface flash, some bright and shiny object that catches your attention for a second? Or is there something deeper, something of substance? With practice, it doesn’t take long to sort gold from pyrite.
Run with It! – Step 3 is to take action (if there is something there…). As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve had the most success when I’ve taken 10 or 20 minutes to write out the scene in my head. For some reason, writing a note isn’t enough. Even if I do go back to revisit the note, I often don’t feel what I felt when I had the original idea. I’ll read the note and understand the words, but I no longer remember the emotional relevance. Stopping everything to write it out then and there can be inconvenient for other parts of my life, but it does garner the best creative results.
“Now Where Did I Put That…?” – Step 4 is to have a system in place so that you can easily revisit these ideas, whether they are notes are full, written scenes. When I get Blue Silver ideas for my novel and I have a chance to write them down, I save them in the same folder as the manuscript and label it with a short description and the word “snippet” along with the date. For example, “Teddy finds a shiny dime SNIPPET 230711.docx” As I mentioned in the last post, my novel lately has become a patchwork of scenes, so I’ve taken to cutting and pasting these snippets directly into the main manuscript in roughly the order I think they’ll take place in the story.
Dig into your past, especially your childhood. Step 5 is about finding those shards of glass already stuck in your mind from days or weeks or years ago. “Mining your childhood for memories” is an old standby, isn’t it? But here’s why it works. Many of our childhood memories stay with us because they were intensely happy, intensely sad, and/or intensely confusing, often with a tinge of embarrassment and regret. It’s those confusing ones that are most interesting. They were confusing because you didn’t have the intellectual or emotional maturity – or both – to process them. So, we file them away for later to ponder. They can become Blue Silver images containing deep truths. Write them down as a memoir, a poem, a short story. Explore those deep truths. If nothing else, it may help you put some ghosts to rest.
There you go – the five steps to a more creative you. Except that – and here’s one of the secrets – you’re actually not becoming more creative. Instead, this is a method of learning how to better capture your innate creativity. It’s a process (and skill) I’m still learning. But I’m very happy with the results so far. I hope that if you follow these steps or some variation of them, you will be too.
Key Takeaway: We can train our minds to see those Blue Silver moments in the background noise, quickly size up the idea, and capture the meaningful ones before they disappear. This helps us be more creative – not by increasing creativity, but by capturing those creative ideas that too often slip by us. We can turn that Blue Silver into gold.
Over to You – How Do You Capture Creative Ideas?
How do you capture creative ideas? Can you look back at memories that stick in your mind for whatever reason, and turn them into something good? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
I’ll leave you with an interview with Didion’s nephew reflecting on her life and writing. If you’ve never read Didion before, this is a great introduction to what she was all about.
Until next time, keep writing with wild abandon!
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