Turning Pinterest from a Time-Suck into a Serious Writing Tool
How author Susan Crispell turned her Pinterest obsession into an integral part of her writing process. If Tom Hiddleston is providing motivation who are we to argue?
We’ve all done it. Gone down the head-spinning rabbit hole that is Pinterest. If you’re anything like me, you think you’ll just take a quick look at your feed, see if there’s anything new and cool you should add to your boards. And then you look up from the screen, bleary-eyed and blinking against the non-glare of natural light that’s much dimmer than it should be, only to realize three hours have gone by.
You’ve skipped your whole to-do list. And those 1,000 words you meant to write? Try zero. But at least you have a shiny new board full of chic hairstyles or decadent dessert recipes you might be able to pull off one day. Right?
Too bad that won’t fly with your editor when you have a deadline you’re trying to meet.
So what if your Pinterest obsession didn’t have to be a guilty pleasure? What if it could actually count as part of your “writing” time? I can hear those gears turning as you calculate how to spin this to your significant other and agent and editor.
Well, I’m here to give you all the justification you need. Because for me, Pinterest is more than just a fun social app that gives me instant access to images of things I love. It really is an integral part of my writing process. And here’s why…
For writers, research comes in so many forms. It can mean reading a book you love in order to analyze how the author pulled off something you want to attempt in your own writing (e.g., voice that jumps off the page, a way of describing a certain action, or how to use setting as a character). Or it can mean spending hours on the computer looking up pie recipes and southern gardens and hand-made beauty products (for The Secret Ingredient Of Wishes) and spicy hot chocolate and hand-sewn aprons and recycled items used as bar décor (for my next novel The Probability Of Fate out fall 2017) and whoopie pies and blackout poetry and rock climbing techniques and kissing quotes (for my current young adult work in progress The Kissing Season). But just because Pinterest is based on pinning images, that doesn’t mean you can’t pin how-to articles or technical explanations for how something in your book works for easy reference while writing. Plus, creating boards for your research not only keeps it all in one place, but it’s also easy to pull up on your phone or tablet so you can research wherever you are.
Inspiration can come from so many places. For me, it comes from music and art and magical what ifs. And Pinterest is one of the best places to find new ideas. Scrolling through my feed or searching for broad terms like “whimsical” turn up some really amazing images. Odds are, whatever you’re interested in you can find it on Pinterest. My friend and agent-sister Hayley Chewins (who writes gorgeous magical YA) found this image on Pinterest and sent it to me on Twitter, asking me to turn it into a story. So of course it went right onto my untold stories board, where I pin photos that are already pulsing with a story just dying to get out. And I can’t wait to write this “take what you need” sign into a story!
I love using Pinterest to make my characters feel like real people. A quick search on “character inspiration” will net you stunning portraits of all types of people you can use as inspiration for your characters. Pinterest can also be great for finding characters’ clothing styles and facial expressions and unique physical attributes that really bring your fictional characters to life. For me, it always helps to be able to see what I’m visualizing in my head to make sure I’ve nailed the look in words. And once I’ve pinned a “character” I can always refer back to it when I’m writing to keep the descriptions consistent throughout the book.
On the days when you need a little kick in the pants to get back to writing—or a little cheerleading to remind you that you can in fact do it—look no further than Pinterest. With a quick search you can find tons of gorgeous motivational quotes and photos. Which is why I have a writing motivation board full of quotes and fun writerly things. Sometimes all I need is a photo of Tom Hiddleston telling me my writing is awesome to get my fingers moving over keys.
Yeah, I know, I just spent all this time telling you how to not simply play around on Pinterest. But taking a few minutes for fun is a great way to clear your head. Maybe you want to check out the TV shows/books/movies you fangirl over or daydream about the house you want to build and fill with gorgeous stylings. Or maybe you just want to look at swoony boys before getting back to characters that might be frustrating you or breaking your heart. But whatever you love, it’s totally okay to take a break for it. And hey, you just might stumble across something helpful along the way.
SUSAN BISHOP CRISPELL earned a BFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina – Wilmington. Susan lives and writes near Wilmington, NC with her husband and their two literary-named cats. She is the author of The Secret Ingredient of Wishes.
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