Writing Help and Creative Writing Inspiration

ASCII art computerI seem to have too many ideas. I’m missing the focus and time I need to get them all from my brain and onto the page (or the virtual/ digital page). I make notes for myself with ideas as I get them. I try to use a notebook rather than bits of paper which end up misplaced, but the notebook isn’t always right there when I need it.

I don’t understand writers who have a lack of ideas. To me it seems there is an endless stream and the real problem is keeping tack of the ideas, organizing and finding storage for all the notes, magazine clippings, and so on. I have even begun to use my digital camera as a quick note taking tool. So my hard drive is just as cluttered. I’m considering a hand-held scanner, just dash out the note and then scan it in for later. This would give me a back up plan for the bits of paper notes.

How do I get ideas? Such a short and simple question when the answer is massive.

Here are some of the ways and places I get ideas:

  • Read the newspaper, a magazine.
  • Study a religion other than your own.
  • Watch/ listen to a talk show.
  • Volunteer to edit someone else, be constructive.
  • Watch a documentary.
  • Read the dictionary until you find a word you don’t know.
  • Look at books in the library, outdated ones too.
  • Talk to people at the coffee shop, grocery store, bus stop…
  • Attend some kind of local group, event or workshop.
  • Go to the bookstore and see what’s new in your niche/ genre.
  • Talk to yourself.
  • Draw something – it doesn’t matter whether you think you can draw or not.
  • Go shopping, look at new inventions in hairbrushes, mouse traps…
  • Take a walk outside.
  • Listen to music and then read the lyrics.
  • Take your laptop on a road trip.
  • Photograph your family. Get as many together as you can.
  • Try creating something in text art.
  • Read the newspaper classifieds.
  • Go to the local thrift store and buy yourself a new coffee mug.
  • Talk to a teenager. They really aren’t that scary.
  • Read about fashion or something else you don’t care about much.
  • Read an opinion that does not agree with your own.
  • Brainstorm about life. What is the meaning of life?
  • Send a postcard or a real, full letter to someone.
  • Try something new in papercrafts: paper flowers, paper cutting, paper folding…
  • Take a lawnchair or a blanket outside and watch the sky, the clouds.
  • Get a hot shower with a soap and shampoo you love to smell.
  • Take the bus all across the town or city you live in.
  • Buy a new pen and some blank paper.
  • Read one of the classic books you never read for school.
  • Do an online personality quiz, just for fun.
  • Read a few blogs by people you don’t know, leave a comment or three.
  • What’s the most boring thing you can think of? Do it.

In the end, it isn’t about where or how you find ideas. The real way to get ideas is to keep your mind open looking for them. Don’t become close minded, too literal, too judgmental or sure you’re so right about everything. It’s when you are open to new things that you are able to find them. You see things you might not have noticed or ignored because they weren’t flashing a neon sign telling you “this is your idea!”.

If you have writer’s block, distract yourself. Get away from that heavy focus and all the pressure. Once you release your mind, give it new roads to travel, the block will weaken and you can shake it off.

Take the seed of an idea and grow it. Look for more information, look at it from another perspective, combine it with other ideas to make something new and interesting. Be open to them and ideas will just come to you, trust me, ideas are everywhere!

Twitter/ ASCII Artist Interview with Andrea Pacione

The Portfolio of Andrea Pacione 

Andrea on Facebook and Twitter

Q: How did you first find ASCII art, ANSI art, Twitter art or text art? Which style came first for you?

I remember seeing ascii or text art appear in some old-school programs on my Apple IIgs family computer that I grew up with back in the 80s. Since graphics were limited, a lot of these sorts of images appeared in games and educational software. I didn’t come across twitter art until about two years ago. I met a friend in my Color class who was facebook friends with New York City artist Larry Carlson, who claims to have invented the #twitterart hashtag. I began studying the posts that would appear in this hashtag, from a wide range of people from all over the world. I was entranced by this new language of expression through images and something about lining up the characters in 140 blocks was highly appealing to me. One very boring winter just before I started school, I would spend hours a day creating these little text arts or twitter arts, and after a few months of this, instead of taking two hours or more just to make one, I could bang them out in five minutes or less. It seemed like a useless hobby at the time, but I think that learning this skill has given me an advantage in my design classes, especially when working with the grid.

Q: What was helpful for you when you started creating text art? Any mentors, FAQ’s or other tutorials or guides?

I remember asking advice from Tom, also known as @140artist on twitter, who gave me a few tips and secrets. Back then, the first line of text on twitter started after your name, so it didn’t line up exactly with the other lines. This was my biggest problem, because what looked like it lined up right in the input box would look very different once you had posted it. Tom gave me the hint to put the hashtags first. Now that twitter has been remodeled, this is no longer necessary as every first line begins on the line below our names now.

Q: What tools do you use?

I use the Special Characters Map that was built into my MacBook Pro.

Q: Do you use a fixed width font or have particular fonts you especially like to work with?

I haven’t played around with different fonts much, as I only really got into this on twitter, which only uses one standard font.

Q: I hadn’t known about creating text art on different systems but now discovered PETSCII and AtariSCII. Have you experimented with a few of these, beyond the standard Windows Notepad?

Nope, haven’t used any program of any sort. Just the characters map and the twitter palate.

Q: Do you turn your art into an image file to display it or rely on HTML code or something else to keep text art formatted?

I have not used either of these methods as yet. For one or two pieces, I used the ‘Grab’ tool in my Mac to take a snapshot of the twitter art post, to post it as a picture on facebook, as the text art doesn’t line up the same on facebook as it does on twitter. But for the most part, I just create it in the twitter input box and hit the send button.

Q: Is it important to you to have set definitions and guidelines as to what is ASCII art, what is ANSI art and etc.? How do you decide which is which for yourself?

I’m honestly not that educated on the definitions. I just did it for fun and learned a new language in the process, which I don’t fully understand but enjoy greatly.

Q: Do you keep an archive of your art? If so, please include the link(s).

Right now I have a word processing and .pdf file storing about 2,000 pieces of text art I have made on twitter. A friend of mine, John the Baker, who has his own punk band and hired me to create a CD cover for his new album with my twitter art, has suggested that I publish it as a book on twitter art. I may do that someday when I’m not so busy trying to earn a college degree.

You Don’t Need an Image with Each Blog Post

Why are you adding an image/ graphic/ photo to your blog post? Because someone said to do it that way? Because people are visual and need the extra stimulus? Because the print magazines (or some popular blog you read) does it that way?

Rethink that plan. The images added to blog posts for the sake of adding images to blog posts are over done. Unless they really add something, like instructions, or some other practical purpose, they just add to the general clutter. Blog readers are becoming both ad blind and image blind due to the overload of useless stuff thrown at them.

  • Your words can (should be able to) stand on their own. If not, rewrite, rather than illustrating something that isn’t there.
  • Your blog does not need an image just for the sake of having an image.  Is adding an image worth a slower load time, a cluttered layout? How many times do you read a blog and see images that fail to load?
  • What does the image really add to your post? What does a random image stuck into your post say about you? Does it say you are creative, crafting a well thought out post, or just another blogger following the pack mentality?
  • If you are not creating your own images you are giving a lot of time and space to promoting the work of someone else. You also risk having the original artist objecting to the use of the image, or the way it has been used.

So, what do you do to keep your blog visually orientated and appealing? Don’t be afraid to get creative, it doesn’t have to be a great work of art, it just needs to be something meaningful, interesting and relevant to the post you are making.

  • Use your own work. Make your photos, graphics or images a feature, worthy of having their own post.
  • Start your own weekly/ monthly web comic. Stick to a schedule that suits you.
  • Doodle something. Use your own hand drawn illustration, it will always be uniquely you.
  • Take a look at text art. Use your keywords in a new way. Just don’t go crazy with it. Moderation in all things.
  • ASCII art is a retro text art and takes time to work on. Don’t steal the ASCII art you find online any more than you would another image.
  • Add an image of yourself, the real person behing the blog to illustrate the posts you write. This is, at least, sincere content and gives readers a real connection to you.
  • Go back to basics, give the odd post it’s own unique background. Don’t over use this either. Think of it as a highlighter pen for your best post of the week/ month.
  • Use subheaders to break up the text. Bold a sentence that sums up your post. You don’t have to stick to basic black.
  • If your blog looks bland to you and you want to add colour change your font colours, try out some jewel tones in blue, green, or red.
  • Add a graphic file with your signature to the bottom of your posts instead of using an image at the top of the post.
  • Skip images. Christmas is special because it comes once a year. Why not use that theory for images you add as well. Make them something unusual by not using them everyday.

Text Art on Twitter

The biggest struggle with posting ASCII art anywhere was always the formatting. Trying to get your work to use a fixed width font so it doesn’t come out all warped looking. Also, making sure you added carriage returns at the end of each line of text. If you missed one you would soon find out if you posted it somewhere outside of the Notepad file you created the art in.

I don’t know how the Twitter art is posted. That may be as complicated as making the art itself. A lot of the Twitter art seems to be design versus a picture/ image. The designs are nice. But, as an ASCII artist from the olden days, I am biased to love artists who use text to make images and manage to get them to post.

For a quick look at the most recent text art on Twitter search for the hash tags:

  • #140Art
  • #TwitterArt
  • #SymbolArt

140 Artist on Twitter and the site 140 Art.com

tw1tt3rart on Twitter

T_witterArt on Twitter

twart1st on Twitter and Twitter Artist’s blog

Newmoticons on Twitter and a tumblog.

ASCII_Art on Twitter – Not really ASCII Art but Twitter art and text art.

Daniel Rehn has a Twitter Art list.

TwingDings for Twitter

TwitClipArt – Twitter Drawings Library

Squidoo: One Line Art for Twitter – A good start to practice with. Try other ASCII art sites to find more one line art or begin creating your own.