As a writer, or creator of anything, sometimes you just get stuck, or you don’t know how to start. I had to rewrite that sentence eight times before I got it right, so there’s a good example. It’s not easy to make stuff up, even if you have an overactive imagination and a million ideas, sometimes nothing wants to come out of your head. Or at least, not in the way that you want it to.
I’ve dealt with this a lot in my life. When I was about seven years old, I was convinced that I would be a bestselling author by fifteen. When I hit fifteen, I thought eighteen. Eighteen came, and I thought twenty, twenty would be the year. Now I’m twenty six, and still not there. Thus, I have had some pretty epic bouts of writer’s block. And will have more in the future. Some people would call it procrastination, and sometimes they may be right. But creative endeavours can’t be forced, otherwise they come out sounding forced.
I’ve learned a few ways to help this problem, that work for me. These would work for any kind of creative outlet, like music or art. Well they work for me, anyway, so if you’ve got blockage and you’re stuck give them a try. Four out of five doctors don’t know me so they can’t recommend shit.
(Speaking of shit, I spent about twenty minutes before this blog post reading synonymous phrases for pooping… you have been warned.)
Pinching a Brain-Loaf Tip #1: Make Time
“I don’t have enough TIME!” It’s one of the oldest excuses in the book (), I know, because I’m guilty of it too. Sometimes life gets really busy, and you feel like you never have any time to sit down and write. But there is always some time. Even if you can only squeeze in fifteen minutes a day, and even if you spend it staring at a blank page, at least you’re trying. A lot can be accomplished in fifteen minutes, whether you think it can or not.
Of course this can backfire, in case you get on a roll and lose track and write half a novel and miss the next 24 hours. But at least you accomplished what you sat down to do!
This tip is the most important, because it lets your brain know that at least once a day it’s writing time. It gets your mind into a routine, and might start the flow on those creative juices more often because you’re twisting the nozzle a little each time. There are so many things wrong with that metaphor, I can’t even begin to list them.
Birthing a Chocolate Brain Dragon Tip #2: Read Awesome Books
This is usually the one that gets my fingers itching for the keyboard. Everyone gets inspired by something, and I find that my writing brain explodes when I read certain books. My #1 go-to is The Gunslinger by Stephen King, although that’s a dangerous one because then I end up having to read all seven Dark Tower books before I even have a chance to write. Because Dark Tower.
If you don’t want to get sucked into a series or too long of a novel and just need a little dose of story goodness, try a short story compilation or articles on writing. I love reading author blogs, because they are usually blogging about how excited they are about their writing, and it gets me excited too.
If I’m going for a certain genre, I find reading really good books in that genre will get my blood pumping faster with creative bugs. I started my sci-fi epic because I was deep in Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds. Not only did the story blow my mind, but it was so beautifully written that I just wanted to know what it was like to be immersed in my own heavy science fiction writing action.
The flip side to this is to read a really shitty book. If it sucks the big one, it may make you angry enough that it exists that you’ll be inspired to write something better. I’ve seen this happen firsthand, with The Boss. I hate 50 Shades of Grey, but if it didn’t exist, I would have never found Jenny Trout and her amazing serial novel.
Dropping the Brain Kids off at the Pool Tip #3: Bounce Ideas Off People
I just pictured writing an idea on paper, crumpling it into a ball, and physically bouncing it off of someone, and I laughed.
Anyway, getting together with a friend, spouse, cousin, or even a total stranger, and talking about your ideas can often help. Or even if you don’t tell them that you’re stuck, you just kind of steer conversation onto something similar to what you’re writing, something might click in your head when something is said. Tee hee, accidental rhyming.
What I like to do sometimes is play the if game. I’ll just randomly ask one of my friends “Hey, if you were in [situation] and [stuff] happened, what would you do?”. And see where they roll with it. If you don’t have cool enough friends for that, throw it up on Twitter or Facebook or a forum somewhere. Or in my comments. I love questions like that. :)
Speaking of forums, the internet is a great place to find like-minded people that have had the same blockage problems as you. These are great people to bounce ideas with because they have ideas they want bounced too. It’s an idea-bounce-a-palooza! I suck at inventing words.
I’ve thought of a more intense variation of the idea bouncing tip, but it’s one I’ve never tried. If anyone has, let me know how it works out, because I feel like it would really work if you had people that would be willing to help you out. If you’re stuck in the middle of a story, get some people (actors?) together and roleplay it. Of course for certain stories you may have to really play pretend, but I feel like if you had serious people that could put themselves in the moment, magic could happen here. If they really get in character and kind of take the scene away… could you imagine? That would be sweet! Improv, anyone?
Releasing the Brain Trout Tip #4: Pay Attention
Depending on what you’re writing, everyday life could blurt something out right in your face that you can use. For example, if you’re writing a story that centres around a character that works in a restaurant, go to a restaurant and drink in the surroundings. You never know what you might see, or what might jog something in your mind.
Even if the main location in your book isn’t attainable in real life, just watching people interact in public may help you get to know your characters better. I often see my characters in other people. That’s actually how I got my book cover for Silent Pictures, by seeing a temp at work that looked exactly like the Sandy-Haired Man. It was a totally awkward introduction on my part, but I had to talk to the guy because it was just awesome that I was looking at the living incarnate of one of my characters.
So next time you’re hanging out in a coffee shop or trolling the mall, watch people and their interactions, and you might see something that you can use.
Pissing out your Brain-Ass Tip #5: Ask For Help
That one was really gross, LOL!
This tip is similar to #3, except you literally ask someone to help you out. You lay out what you’re stuck on, and they help you brainstorm. Now, you need to make sure that they’re totally okay giving you ideas, fully knowing that you might use them. If they’re like “I can’t believe I thought of that, I’m going to do something with it!” don’t steal it, because it’s not yours. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say ‘don’t be a dick’, but at this point random people are reading my blog that I don’t know, and they may be dicks. I don’t want to be responsible for that, so disclaimer: don’t be an asshole!
Anyway, if you know somebody that is totally cool handing out ideas and helping you brainstorm, ask them for help! My boyfriend used his amazingly creative and witty brain to channel my current main character and come up with a name for her, because I couldn’t for the life of me think of one. It was awesome. It’s hard to come up with things sometimes, and if you’re really stuck, just sitting back and asking someone else to take a look at it can make all the difference. They can give you a fresh perspective.
Fighting Brain Splashback Tip #7: Write Something Else
I know that there’s always that main story idea that is your baby and you just want so badly for it to come into existence, but sometimes is just hasn’t percolated enough to be poured. I think I should get my guy to come up with my metaphors, too. *facepalm*
Anyway, if you’re having trouble writing your main event, try writing something totally different. At least you’re still writing, right? (Write? Har har, I know I’m a terrible person.) In the spirit of Tip #1, you’re training your brain to be in writing mode, even if you’re writing something else. At least you’re creating something, whether it’s useful or not.
Questioning usefulness is a great segue towards mentioning my blog. I may not always post things that are technically useful (see: my post about cocks), but at least I’m writing. It’s good exercise for your brain, and it also dumps out some ideas or information that may be taking up the space that should be designated to your bestselling novel. There is absolutely no scientific study to back up that claim, but it’s a fun theory, no?
Sometimes I like to take a character out of a story and write a little short story or scene placing them in a totally different situation, or a part of their past. This is extra helpful because you might learn something new about that character that can be relevant to your main story. And it helps you get further into that character’s head, learn their reactions, and be able to write them more efficiently.
So whether it’s starting a blog, writing a short story, poem, or an article about genitals, writing is writing, and at least you’re being (somewhat) productive.
Soaking a Brain Cigar Tip #7: Do Something Else
If you’ve tried all of these things and somehow are still maniacally staring at a blank page, get the fuck up and do something completely different. Sometimes you just need to unplug and relax. Try doing something that you’ve never done before, like this one time I had writer’s block so bad that I went for a jog. It didn’t really fix my writer’s block, but I learned that I hate jogging. But it dislodged the idea that if I write outside, I can smoke at the same time, thus eliminating smoke breaks, so yay!
In any case, taking a break from furiously willing words to appear on your screen (or paper, some people actually still use paper) might recharge your batteries enough to give your ideas a fresh start.
I hope these ideas help. Or at least, if they don’t, that you were entertained by them. I know I was. In case you didn’t know, I love shit synonyms.