If you live in the northern hemisphere, you’re probably more than eager to see the last cold winds of winter blow away. And if there’s not another flake of snow for the next six months, your feelings won’t be hurt. It’s been a long, cold, dreary winter around here.
But the advent of spring brings new energy to the world, and to our creative process. There’s just something about feeling the sunshine on our faces that inspires us to shake off the old stagnant ideas we’ve been muddling through, and to reach for new vigorous inspiration.
If you’ve been working on a full-length manuscript, maybe it’s time to sharpen your skills with a handful of non-fiction articles and short stories. Let yourself be inspired by the changing season.
But wait, you say. Why would I write short pieces I can complete in a few days, when I could be toiling through another thousand pages of my multi-book saga?
Changing things up once in a while allows your brain to make new connections, think in new patterns, and learn new skills.
If that’s not enough incentive, consider this. I have a friend who writes and submits hundreds of articles each year. And dozens of those articles end up in print. With her byline. Deb still works on her novel, but in the meantime editors and publishers are becoming familiar with her name and her skill set. And getting paid for most of those articles helps fund her book writing.
If you’ve never written non-fiction articles, or short stories here’s a few ideas to get you started:
1. Drive into the countryside and really observe how spring shows up in the woods and open fields. Breathe. What does spring smell like where you live? Sift the soil through your fingers. Be still and watch how the birds and creatures play. Write a short story from the perspective of the farmer readying his fields for planting. Submit your story to a magazine with a farming or country reader-base.
2. Research your area to find farmers’ markets, and interview the owners.
a. Write an article about the families who run the markets. What inspires them to provide this service?
b. Who are the people attracted to shop at these markets? Why do they leave the city in search of food for their table?
c. Which seasonal foods are the favorites of the majority of the shoppers? Why?
d. Write an article about the crops available in each season, and feature a recipe for a spring item.
3. This idea can be a treat for you, as well as for your readers. Make a list of all the festivals within one day’s driving distance.
a. Write an article about the festivals you’d like to attend and what make each of them attractive for you. Be specific. Write about the carnival rides that remind you of your childhood. Write about the spring blossoms that gladden your heart. Find the hook that will interest readers in your area. Submit the article to your local paper.
b. Write an article about the festivals you have attended, and provide specific reasons your readers would enjoy each one. Submit it to your local paper, and to travel and regional magazines.
c. Contact the festival organizers and let them know you will be visiting their celebration. Ask for the history of the event and what makes it different from the other festivals in that area. Write an article they can use in their promotions. Write an article for a regional travel magazine. Submit your article to a magazine from another region of the country, so those readers will be attracted to your local festivals. (Make sure you let each editor know that you are submitting to the other.)
d. At the end of the season, write an article about your pursuit of the perfect spring festival. Rank the festivals you visited by comparing similar features, as well as the oddities that make each unique. Submit the article to your local newspaper, to a travel magazine, to regional magazines. You get the picture.
4. Don’t forget to take your camera to capture the moments that embody the spirit of the festival, the fun, the food—the season. Editors pay for photos to go with stories they publish, so you might as well be the one taking them.
5. Use every drop of your experiences to lift your writing into a new, fresh energy. Collect all the photos, the impressions, the moments that you paused to savor. How will they inspire your writing when you return to working on your novel, your memoir, or your inspirational book?
6. Repeat Steps 1 through 5 for summer, fall, and winter.
When was the last time you tried writing something completely different from your main work? What did you learn that you were able to add to your writing toolbox? Share with us in the comments.