I’m relatively new to Pinterest. Like Twitter – and even this blog – I’ve been a bit nervous and slow on the uptake when it comes to social media.
But now I’ve found it, Pinterest has quickly become my favourite spot for finding and collecting inspiration. I like to think it has helped my creative process, and it’s certainly given me a lot of fun in the process.
I have a board for my current project, Abriny (more on that here), one for plot bunnies, to keep them happy until I can turn my attention their way, and another for useful and inspiring writing Pins.
Here’s how I use Pinterest to help my creative process:
1 – Character Development
Sometimes a character will leap fully formed into your head – as Harry Potter famously did for J K Rowling – and you’ll have a crystal clear image of them from the outset.
But a lot of the time, it doesn’t work like that. Maybe you know one or two characteristics, maybe there’s a particular feature you’d like your character to have. Maybe there’s a picture of them in your head, but it’s fuzzy and out of focus. Or maybe you know their profession, their likes and dislikes, you’ve written ten pages of backstory, but have absolutely no idea what they look like.
Browsing Pinterest, whether with their search, using their pre-defined categories (there’s one for fantasy characters) or following a trail of clicks from one image to another is sure to throw up dozens of ideas and inspiration.You may find your image of the character evolving as new possibilities present themselves, and that’s all part of the creative process too.
2 – Atmosphere
Many authors use playlists and atmospheric music to help evoke the mood for either their whole story or the scene they’re currently working on.
I use Pinterest to do the same in a visual way. Whether it’s scenery, characters again or simply an artistic impression of a particular mood, sometimes a Pin just sings to me, just fits perfectly with somewhere my story might be going. Then, when I actually come to write up those scenes, if I’m struggling to get into my flow, I can pop onto my Pinterest board, bring up the Pins that inspired me, like the two below, and remind myself of how the scene is supposed to feel.
3 – Nurture those plot bunnies
Inspiration is a funny thing. Sometimes you can’t get it for love nor money, and either slog away through a slow spot in the story or give up and sulk until it comes back (I don’t recommend that latter option, by the way!). Other times, it comes so thick and fast you can’t keep up with it.
And if you’re trying to finish a project (or any of them!), you can’t spend all your time chasing down plot bunnies, running after the latest new idea or even just figuring out which of them have real potential.
I used to try noting down the idea, scraps of plot, character’s names. Whatever had come to me in the spur of the moment and whatever followed on as I made my notes. But it was too easy to get drawn into the supposedly quick note-taking; I have twenty page outlines for some of the plot bunny stories. Now, I have a Pinterest board labelled “other books” and when I come across a Pin that feeds a particular plot bunny, it goes on there for future reference. Sometimes I’ll even go searching for Pins to flesh out a particularly stubborn idea; even though it takes time away from my current project, it’s much easier to avoid getting carried away.
And when I do finish Abriny, and wonder what to do next, I’ll have a ready-made supply of ideas.
And here’s one downside:
For me, Pinterest is the biggest time-suck on the internet. I can easily
waste while away more time on there than on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr combined. The seductive trail of one Pin after another, marvelling at artwork or absorbing the inspiration, frequently sucks up whole hours of writing time.
As with so much of the writing life, discipline is the key. I set myself word count goals and use a slab of Pinterest browsing time as the reward when I reach them. Or, if even that fails, I use RescueTime, which I can (and have!) set to block distracting sites after I’ve spent too much time on them, or just when I really want to focus.
I’m sure there are a whole raft of other advantages to Pinterest that I haven’t yet uncovered. And there’s probably a few more downsides (don’t get me started on the slew of buxom, scantily clad women that pass as “female warriors” – and who the hell ever fought a war in high heels?). Why not share your own Pinterest tips and experiences in the comments.