Using Pinterest as a Writing Resource

My mom got me hooked on Pinterest.

We were at the local craft show two years ago, and my mom said she had seen some of the ideas for monogrammed gigamabobs online. “You aren’t on Pinterest? I’ll send you an invite.”

At first I was only friends with some family members and the random people that Pinterest automatically selects for you when you first sign up. But then I started following some of my writing friends, and even my favorite literature professor from my undergraduate days. And now it’s a story brainstorming activity that I spend about 15 minutes a day doing. It’s relaxing, and continuously inspiring. I have more story ideas than I could ever write, and I find more every day.

How Pinterest works is this:

Your homepage is an all visual bulletin board that’s constantly changing. You can click a little button at the top of each post to pin the image to your own board. You create boards to keep your pins organized.

If you see an image you love and repin it, you can start following that person’s pins. It’s like making your way through a labyrinth, constructing it around you as you go.

How I organize my boards:

I have two different strategies for brainstorming on Pinterest.

The first is for character and setting ideas. A lot of the boards I subscribe to are art and travel that have the kind of feel that draws me in – funky, off, lovely. Usually these images spark a story in my mind.

I’m not worried about pinning them publicly, or sharing them here. I think everyone is inspired by images in a way that is specific to who they are. Let’s say we both wrote a story based on this image:

I think that little girl’s next step would be in two totally different directions.

So by compiling an idea box, I feel like the general well of ideas is never empty. I still get ideas from other places – cool documentaries on PBS, links sent to me by friends, strange dreams. But I like having this little alcove of images to keep my sense of story working.

One of the exercises young writers are given is to go to a public place and observe others. I used to do this often in college, and I’m still prone to stare a second longer or listen a bit longer than I probably should, but now that I’m working I spend most of my time alone in an office or at home with my cats. So I practice eavesdropping on images while I unwind from a long day.

The second way I use Pinterest is to brainstorm for a current work in progress. I have a dedicated Pinterest board for my current novel project, A Thousand Tangled Thoughts. Some of the pins on this board are research-based, while others evoke a certain mood I want to convey through the story. Most of these images I’ve found outside of Pinterest via Google image search or have happened upon while doing research. I added the Pin It bookmark to my browser’s bookmarks toolbar, and whenever I find an image that goes with my book I click on it and it adds the image to my Pinterest board.

Sure, I’ve got the obligatory tasty foods and geeky stuff boards, but those are mainly to keep the occasional Batgirl fan art or recipe for raspberry cordial that pops into my feed. But I’ve focused my subscription feeds over the past year so that the images that show on my page are mostly story inspiration.

It’s like watching a secret camera feed of a bunch of people’s dreams, but they’re all cool people who like misty landscapes and girls in quirky-beautiful clothes. And unlike dreams, these images are captured clearly, so I can use them for inspiration whenever the story is ready to be told.

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