An Environmental Cause

I love advice.  In fact, the world loves advice.  We all love to eat our buttered toast in front of the morning talk show, absorbing tips on how to wear red this season or how to lose the extra inches around the middle (step 1: leave off the butter).  And we all love to read those books on how to cure unhappiness in ourselves and chronic happiness in others.  We are a society obsessed with advice.

So it’s no surprise that I cling to any and every piece of writing advice out there.  I once read about a writer who uses an alarm to reinforce a strict three hours of uninterrupted writing.  I added the word alarm to my list and promptly lost the list.  I once read about an author who exercises an hour before writing to stimulate the creativity and energy needed for each climatic scene.  I tried a few push-ups before sinking to my elbows on the family room floor and stretching for the TV remote.

Advice is only useful if you take it and make it work for you.  Advice is never the full solution.  It can only get you so far without implementation.

Here’s the challenge: take [and implement] a little advice from Matt Stewart, author of The French Revolution. In a recent Poets & Writers inquiry, he swore by environmental observation for literary inspiration:

Dog walks with no iPhone access force me to pay attention to San Francisco’s world-class characters, who are wonderfully weird and story provoking.  I recently saw a shirtless Jesus doppleganger playing drums while riding a beach cruiser uphill, which has already made it into my next novel.

Tomorrow (and potentially every day after), disconnect yourself from technology and nagging financial worries, and observe the world around you.  Turn off the iPod – but leave the headphones in as not to arouse suspicion from fellow subway riders – and watch, listen, imagine.

And then work whatever you discover into that story of yours.