There is no shortage of ideas. The source of the writer’s creative frustrations is the same source of nearly every person’s perceived hindrance in all walks of life. It’s fear. Fear of failure, being rejected, being laughed at, heckled by peers or whatever. You have ideas, probably great ones. We all have ideas. It is only when we start comparing our ideas to those of Stephen King or Michael Crichton that we freeze up and second guess ourselves. But as with every other facet of life, there is a fine line to walk. That line being the one drawn between confidence and delusion. Is our mental state one of self-suredness or that of the American Idol reject? If you’re struggling with writer’s block there are some potential remedies to try while you work on the main habit all writers need, which is the banishment of fear.
The first and most obvious is keeping a writing journal. Most writers do and if you don’t, then start now. This journal should be your constant companion. Guard it like your wallet or purse. Write every idea, concept and even dreams in your journal, no matter how silly they may seem at the time. Over time you’ll be able to look through this journal and see patterns of potential story development.
Engage in free writing. Just start writing whatever comes to your mind and don’t let doubt or skepticism stop you. Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, style or structure. You’ll be surprised what comes out the other end of this experiment. Free write at different times and in various mental states. Keep your free writing journal separate from your idea journal.
Use mind maps. Mind maps are a great tool for simplifying a complicated task. Typically used in business and science, they can also be very effective for writers. There are websites and apps that provide mind mapping software for free. Mind map is based off central elements such as characters, acts and points. Use the mind map in conjunction with your outline to further explore individual points on the outline.
Consider character development. A good story is nothing without believable characters that connect to the readers on an emotional level. This is why character development can be a great way to explore new facets of a plot. If you’re struggling to further your story, then start deeply analyzing the characters. Reassess their backgrounds, personalities, motives and connections to the other characters. You may find this process leads you down new paths in your writing process.
Make a big, crazy list of “what if” questions. Write down these questions no matter how wacky they sound and whether they relate to what you are writing or want to write. What if people had legs for arms or what if the moon is a hole you can jump through to another dimension? It shouldn’t take too long to get at least 100 of these.
Utilize visual stimuli. Find a picture that you love and sit it on the desk and just stare at it for a while. Let it draw you in and stimulate your imagination. Think about the backstory of the subject and the artist’s motivation. You can also do this with nature. Go to your favorite spot in the forest and just sit and think. Contemplate the majesty of nature and the universe. Get out your trusty journal and record whatever comes to mind.
Watch the news. Read books or blogs about weird but true events. Sometimes life really is stranger than fiction. What better place to seek inspiration than this crazy world we live in? This does not necessarily have to be current events. Study history as well. I mentioned Michael Crichton earlier. He was a master at this.
Be a good listener. When you are out and meet new people, listen intently to what they have to say. If you can afford it, travel a lot. If not, I’m certain there is plenty of diversity where you live. Or try public transportation. You just have to go out and find it. Immerse yourself in the experiences of people from all walks of life. Break out of your cultural cage. Your best source for a good story will undoubtedly be the elderly.
Take Hemingway’s advice. Seriously, write drunk or under the influence of your favorite mind relaxing substance. It worked for The Grateful Dead, that’s for sure. Just don’t overdo it.
The best way to get new ideas is just to daydream uninhibited. No matter how hectic your life gets, always remember to take time out to daydream now and then. Never let the monotony of day to day life put a damper on your innate ability of childlike insight into the world around you. Once your mind locks on to an idea, more related ideas will start flowing so fast your hand will get cramps from trying to keep up. Don’t forget that journal!
These are all great techniques you can use to get over that stubborn figment of your imagination called writer’s block. Just remember to keep honing the number one skill you’ll need as a writer. No, not writing; it’s killing fear. Writers are daydreamers and fear is the dream killer. Have fun with your craft and don’t be too hard on yourself!
James A. Rose is a writer for
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