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Wondering what #rollnwrite is all about?

About a year ago, I decided I was working way too hard. Creativity, after all, can’t be whipped into shape from sheer will power. In fact, thinking too hard can be one of creativity’s biggest enemies. What an artist needs is a little surprise in their life, a little improvisation, and yes, play.

So, I decided to present my artist self with a new game. I found a set of oversized dice. On the first, I labeled the sides with elements of story: character, setting, scene/story arc, language, and theme. On the sixth side, I added the word, “me.” I’ll explain that later.

On the second, I labeled the sides with ways to play: art, music, listing, movement, questions, and wild card, just to keep things interesting.

When I roll the dice, they give me a creative invitation, such as “Music” and “Character.” Depending on where I am with my creative work, I choose a quick creative activity to get my juices flowing. For instance, in this case, I might make a short playlist my character would enjoy. As I work through my book, I find that I don’t really know my secondary character as well as I thought. In the flow of drafting, a new setting might not come fully alive. I come up against questions for which I have no answers. And by allowing a little chance and surprise into the process, I find myself blasting through blocks.

So, why did I include “me” on the story dice? Sometimes I find myself stuck in the writing process and it doesn’t have anything to do with my story or characters. More, it has to do with something inside me that I’m working through. When I write, sure, I invent characters and situations that are entirely new. Still, much of what I’m writing draws on emotional truth from my past and even my present. For instance, if I’m writing about friendship in my story, I can’t help but think of my current friendships, as well as those past, as I develop interactions. By tapping into what’s going on with me, right now, I can find emotional depth to put on the page, where otherwise, my words would have been too slight.

Part of the surprise of this process is that when I see what I roll, say, “listing” and “setting,” I let the prompts simmer for a few minutes, thinking about what activity might help me most, right now, where I am in the writing process. I might decide to list sounds my character would hear in this new setting, or textures she’d see. However, there are days when I need a little help, too. Soon, I’ll post a list of possible activities, in case you’d like to pick and choose from a list of possibilities. Hopefully, the list will spark your own ideas too, and hopefully, you’ll share!

Follow #rollnwrite on Twitter to play along. Post your own discoveries as you go. Open yourself up to surprise… you never know what you’ll discover.