I think it is the most over-used, blatantly boring, redundant and pointless question ever asked. It’s as though people who read, admire, live in or otherwise experience another person’s work has never had an original thought in their lives. Which by the way, is ridiculous. Where does anyone get ideas? From the same place anyone else does. Just because you’re a writer or artist or designer or whatever doesn’t grant you some magical lifeline into the mysteries of the universe where a well of ideas spring forth ripe for you to pick them out at your leisure. In a word, I think the idea of ideas is rather nuts. Everyone has ideas and the only thing that separates a creative individual from anyone else, is that the creative person holds within them the drive to DO something with their ideas and practice, practice, practice their craft.
Speaking of practice I was perusing a few blogs this afternoon and over the years I’ve seen numerous authors struggle with the dreaded phrase “writer’s block.” Personally I don’t believe writer’s block or any other ‘block’ to your creativity exist. I do believe however, that any block that you may or may not encounter only exists as a way for you, the writer, to avoid writing whatever piece you have in front of you. It isn’t that you’re lazy or that you would much prefer to do something else (all jobs have this element btw, it’s not exclusive to writers). Nor is your topic, writing or knowledge lacking in skill, interest or relevance, although there may be a bit of all of these but not in the way you may expect.
By this, I mean that there may be a part of you that really doesn’t like what you’re writing about. Maybe you started off writing about your grandpa’s antique car collection but you would rather write about grandma’s cooking recipes. Or maybe you’re writing something you feel obligated to write because you have specifically designed your blog, novel or article to be about a pre-determined topic and feel you have to “stick with your plan.” Honestly, unless you’ve received an advance or signed a contract promising this piece of writing to another party, you DO NOT have to keep writing it. If you aren’t passionate about your current writing endeavor, why are you writing it? You and your writing flourishes when you write passionately about something that moves you while also helping you grow as a writer and as an individual.
Now there is the other kind of so-called “writer’s block” when you’re sitting in front of that always dreaded and oh so intimidating, glaringly bright white computer screen and all you can think of is getting another cup of coffee and reading a book. Which is not such a bad idea. Ever heard the saying that when you’re looking for something, the harder you look the less likely you are to find it? And that if you really want to find something that you should engage in any other activity that allows your thoughts to think of something else? No? Well it really does work and it also works for writing.
However, if you have a deadline and all you can hear is the ticking of the wall clock, the growling of your empty stomach or the crunching of food by a family member or co-worker and you just HAVE to write something today, I have an exercise you can try to get those writing muscles in gear.
Several years ago I used to be a member of what was called the Writer’s Digest Book Club and it was awesome. Books I never knew existed could be found in this club, never mind bought at any local bookstore and I felt like I’d gone to writing heaven. I bought more than my fair share of writing books but I wasn’t actually doing any writing, as so often happens when you consign your dreams to remaining dreams. But I knew I would want to write “someday” and so I decided to only invest in reference books that would be available to me when I was ready to read them.
Long story short, I have in my possession a book entitled, Fast Fiction: Creating Fiction in Five Minutes by Roberta Allen. It’s a great resource for finding and generating ideas. The concept is simple and once you’ve tried it a few times, you should no longer bemoan your imagined lack of idea generating muscles.Get yourself a simple egg timer, choose one prompt from the sample list below, set your timer for 5 minutes and start writing.
Don’t think! Just write!
Write a story about a lie. Write a story about a wish. Write a story about something that really happened. Write a story about greed. Write a story about a window. Write a story about a doorway. Write a story about water. Write a story about something that hasn’t happened yet. Write a story about a storm. Write a story about a flower, a memory, falling, money, desire, dancing, pain, a secret, air, friendship. (You get the idea…)
If words aren’t cutting it for you, find yourself some black and white photos of anyone or anything you know nothing about. All you should have before you is an image of someone or something. Write about it. Tell a story. Let the words pour forth and don’t worry about editing, grammar or anything else your ego tries to bring to your attention. You’ll have plenty of time to think about that when the timer ends. If you find you have more to say after the timer goes off, set it for another 5 minutes and keep going. Stop after this and review what you’ve written. I can almost guarantee that you will have before you a piece of writing you didn’t even know was in your thoughts. And if you’re really lucky, not only will you have gotten past any ‘block’ you may have had, but you may also have a new plot idea before you. You could also very easily use this technique to write an entire book.
The choice and the words are yours. Begin.