Help for the NaNo-Panicked (Part 2)

By Filosofias filosoficas (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsBe Your Own Random Generator

Okay, think of this as a bonus idea if you’re feeling skeptical about the whole idea of using ideas generated by someone else. The germ of this idea comes from the Working Writer’s Daily Planner.

Try to have a quiet block of time when you’re not likely to face many interruptions. Sit down at the computer or grab pen and paper. Now, as quickly as you can, write fifty first lines. You don’t have to know anything about the story they might start. Don’t stop to think too much–if you must, set a timer for twenty minutes and see how many you can do in this amount of time This is just to see what your brain comes up with.

Got that? Good. That’s the part that came from the WWDP. Here’s my expansion on the exercise:

Now start a new list and invent fifty characters. They can be names or short descriptions: “Ludwig Thimbledown” or “a fastidious undertaker” or “a college student with a secret.” They can be archetypes or atypical and unusual. It doesn’t matter. Fifty, as fast as you can.

Getting tired? One more part. A new list, and this time you’re going to write down fifty problems, conflicts, or themes–or any mix of the three. They’re going to be short snappers, like “stolen inheritance” or “demon possession” or “physical loss leads to emotional loss” or “destruction of the natural world.” Whatever pops into your head, jot it down.

Whew! By now your brain is reeling and exhausted, I’m sure. So put your lists away for a little while; an hour or an afternoon or a day. Then when you’re ready, take them out, line them up, and see what happens.

Chances are, there will be some things from each list that you really have no interest in writing about, but others will jump out at you as intriguing. Don’t be afraid to cross some out, highlight others, or put what you feel are the best ones into a separate file or mind map. Play with combinations, try writing a few first paragraphs starting with the lines you like best, put characters and conflicts together, and chances are that story ideas will be sprouting in no time. Sometimes the brain just needs a metaphorical kick in the pants, but the raw material is all in there, just waiting for the right opportunity to make it into the light. Or a chance to mix its metaphors. Or whatever. Just go write!

Image credit: By Filosofias filosoficas (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Spice Tins D.I.Y.

And now for something completely different…but I can’t write about writing all the time, can I? “All work and no play”, you know?

So, this is not my own original idea, but I did tweak it to fit my needs, so I thought I would share. I saw the idea over at A Beautiful Mess, to make these cool spice tins that were space-saving, efficient, and nice to look at. However, the original idea was to add magnets to the backs of the tins so that they could stick on the refrigerator. My refrigerator is already full of pictures, notes, and magnetic poetry, so I wasn’t interested in that. I was, however, interested in cleaning up my spice cupboard, and I’m going to swallow my pride and show you why.

Yes, it’s a horrible mess. You can just see some adhesive on the inside of the cupboard door where I had some cork for holding takeout menus, but my idea was to utilize the spice tins idea there. At first I thought I would have to find a thin sheet of tin or something, to put inside the door for the magnets to stick to, but then I realized I was looking at it the wrong way around–all I needed was a magnet for the tins to stick on to, since they’re already metal. This also cut down the work considerably since I didn’t have to cut pieces of magnet sheets for every tin. I knew I could get magnet sheets, since I had found them before. So, line the inside of the cupboard with those, and I’d have my magnetic surface.

As the gals at A Beautiful Mess did, I ordered my little tins from here, but I think you can get similar items from bulk stores. The other materials needed were the magnet sheet (I got mine at Michael’s, a nice long roll that just needed a bit of trimming to fit my cupboard door), scissors, ruler, pencil, and some labels.

I washed all the tins out first, and if you’re doing this, I’d recommend leaving them overnight to dry. The covers tend to hold a bit of water around the edges, and you don’t want to get your spices wet. Dry them off and then give the residual water time to evaporate.

While you’re waiting, you can take stock of your spices and go off and make your labels. I did mine on the computer and used plain white mailing labels (they needed just a little trimming on the edges), but you could hand-letter them, use colored labels, or whatever strikes your fancy. Get creative!

The magnet sheet was easy to trim to shape with just scissors, but the adhesive was VERY sticky. I could have used another set of hands to help me get it in place, nice and straight with no air bubbles. I was alone, so this took me a few minutes, and was actually the hardest part of the project. It turned out well in the end, though.

The final part of the project was to transfer the spices into the new tins. I did discover that the tins would hold only about half a jar of spice, so I have a few jars left hanging around, waiting until it’s time to refill the appropriate tin. From now on I will plan to buy spices in bulk, so I’ll only buy enough to fill the tins. The final product looks great, I think! I arranged them with those I use most on the bottom, within easy reach. You could, of course, arrange them alphabetically, or by color or texture, or whatever way your heart desires. The magnet strength is just perfect–the hold is nice and firm (they don’t fall off if the cupboard door bangs shut) but it takes only the tiniest bit of effort to pull off the one you want to use. They look much nicer than the previous jumble of jars, it’s much easier to find what you want, and BONUS! I have a clean cupboard with much more space for other things.