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April 21, 2024

On seeking new inspirations for writing

By MADELYN KYE | February 22, 2024

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ARANTZA GARCIA / DESIGN AND LAYOUT EDITOR

Kye talks about her shifting approach to writing.

At the end of 2023, I felt very burnt out with writing. I love writing, but I felt as though I had spent the fall semester writing excessively as I drafted, edited and often scrapped one short story after the next. To combat this, I decided it was time to seek out new inspiration. I often pull from my own life in my work (and I will continue to do so), but I wanted to work to make sure that I always had material, even if there was nothing in my personal life currently interesting to me as a writer. 

I took a few different approaches to this. First, I did a lot of reading over winter break. I don’t get the chance to read much for leisure during the semester; I read eight books — several standalone novels, a memoir and a fantasy trilogy — with the hope of finding new influences. People often say it’s critical that writers read, and I wholeheartedly agree with this. Dedicating my winter break to reading certainly improved my creativity. 

Entering 2024 — and looking ahead to the spring semester — I wanted to build a habit that I could sustain. I’ve often taken inspiration from strange dreams of mine, but too many of them have inspired me — and have promptly been forgotten — before I had a chance to write them down at all. 

To combat this (to the extent that it’s possible), I decided that my New Year’s resolution was to start keeping a dream journal. It felt a little bit silly, opting for a New Year’s resolution that didn’t really have much at all to do with self-improvement, but I’m glad I did. Sure, some of my dreams are incredibly boring — the first dream I recorded detailed me explaining to someone why I had deleted TikTok (but not Instagram). However, I’ve had a few that have intrigued me, such as a very high-stakes cooking contest, and it’s been productive — at the very least — to begin building the habit. 

Returning to real life, I’ve also been drawing inspiration from random happenings. I’ve written previously about my tendency to make lists, and I’ve continued doing this, though somewhat less thematically than I did over the summer. Recently, I’ve been jotting down details and ideas as they come to mind, no matter how silly they seem. In one case, I wrote down the fact that my sister always manages to hit every red light. In another, I wrote down a phrase my grandma texted me: “Romaine calm and carrot on.” Regardless of whether I ultimately place these details into my writing, I value the opportunity to preserve these goofy yet mundane and easily forgettable details of my own life in my notes. 

More concretely, I’m interested in drawing on my family history. My sister and I spent a few hours on a genealogy project over winter break. This was only loosely connected to writing — while I was hoping some sort of magical inspiration would strike, I’ve always been interested in learning more about my family’s past — and it was exciting for us to learn more about our relatives and family history.

At the end of winter break, I spent a few hours interviewing my paternal grandparents, both of whom I really look up to. My notes are very jumbled, but it was truly incredible how much I learned about them in the span of a few hours. This project doesn’t seem like it’s going to work itself into my fiction, at least not in its current form, but I’m very grateful I took the time to ask such pointed questions to improve my knowledge.

Overall, with the spring semester now a month underway, I’m extremely glad I tried out a few different forms of what I’ve been calling “cross training” to indirectly improve my writing. Not every effort has paid off in an artistic sense, but taking the time to read more, writing down the silly details of my life and learning more about my family members has nevertheless been an invaluable pursuit. 

Madelyn Kye is a senior from Long Island, N.Y. majoring in Writing Seminars and International Studies. Her column discusses people and things that have entered and exited her life, often through the lens of growing up. She is the Voices Editor for The News-Letter.


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