Confessional Classic: 3 Things… for Arm Hair Raising Moments

Christmas is just around the corner, and we here at The Parking Lot Confessional hope you’re spending the time you want with the ones who matter most. That’s exactly what we’re doing. Don’t worry, though. We haven’t forgotten you. This week and next we’re excavating some of our favorite posts to hold you over. In the meantime, be it Yule, Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa, may your celebrations be merry.

Originally posted June 17, 2011.

By far the best moments in writing happen when an idea strikes. It’s so electrifying the hairs on your arms stand at attention. If I’m not near a pen or computer when it happens, I scramble to get to one. More often than not I could remember them later, but why risk it? Just because I’m not diagnosed with ADD or ADHD doesn’t mean I don’t empathize with losing a train of thought to something shiny.

The most important thing to know about achieving Arm Hair Raising Moments is that you need to be open to them. You have to be willing to let your story happen. There is no crime in deviating from an outline or a rough character sketch. As soon as you can relax these expectations, you’ll be hoisting your lightning rod and ready for inspiration to strike.

Everybody is different. You put your left shoe on first. I, the right. So it goes without saying that methods of letting go will be different for each of us as well. What I offer is three things that work for me. Try them out, tweak them if you like. I won’t mind. Just find something that works and use it.

Remove yourself from
your usual environment.

I don’t mean leave town. A thirty minute walk around the neighborhood could easily do the trick as well. Although if leaving town is possible, by all means do it. Wherever you end up, be it down the street or across the state line, enjoy where you are. Don’t hold that unworkable scene in your head. Taking in something new will in turn bring in something new to the story.

I would suggest going by yourself though. That way you avoid getting caught up in someone else’s thoughts. Let your thoughts be your own and those Ah-ha! moments will follow.

Write something else.

There is no rule anywhere that states you have to stick to the same story until it’s through. If you feel you’ve hit an impasse, simply go with something else. Once you pull your conscious brain away, I believe your subconscious takes over for you. Next thing you know, the arm hairs are rising and you’re back to your original story.

Indulge in silly exercises.

Remember when you were first starting out writing stories based on prompts? Those long drawn out and seemingly pointless character sketches you did to improve your craft? I know you remember. Did you think that was only for the sake of honing your craft, and now that you’ve been doing this for a while, those aren’t necessary anymore?

Think again.

Those exercises will help almost every single time. Most of what you write won’t end up in the story, but that doesn’t make it useless. Some aspect of your character or plot will sneak in and raise your arm hair. Most definitely while you’re not expecting it.

And that’s the key to these Arm Hair Raising Moments. You never expect them when they happen. So why not create times for them to happen? I’m not advocating for anyone to ignore their writings. You still need to get your butt in the chair. It’s when the writing’s getting stale and in need of some fresh inspiration that we as writers need to shake it up. These are a few of the devises I use to do that.

If you have any suggestions, please share them below. I’m always up to trying something new.