I’m not going to say that there’s nothing worse than a writer being stuck for ideas because there are worse things. But I am going to say being a writer who is stuck for ideas is avoidable and below are five tips to help circumvent this particular issue.
- Keep a journal. In the good old days writers would keep a journal, notepad or diary on them at all times. The point of this was, when inspiration struck, it would be ideal for keeping a record of ideas, thoughts and potential material that could be built on. Nowadays a writer doesn’t need to be encumbered by the need to carry a notepad, journal or diary as all of this is available as an app (or a series of apps) on the handy little mobile phones that we all keep in our pockets.
- Use the journal. It’s all well and good having a journal/diary/notepad app on your phone, but you need to use it regularly and keep it filled with ideas. Did you hear an interesting snippet of conversation that could inspire a scene? Write it down. Did you just get an idea for a superhero whose Kryptonite is cute doggies? Write it down. Did you finally figure out the perfect comeback for that asshat who called you a no-talent hack? Write it down. Any or all of these could prove the inspiration for your next piece of creativity. But they’ll only be available to you if you make a point of writing them down.
- Be Inspired. I consume fiction and it makes me want to create something in a similar fashion. For example, I watch a vampire movie and I want to write about vampires. Or, I watch a movie about dark magic and I want to write about dark magic. This doesn’t mean I want to copy what I’ve experienced (copying and plagiarism are the worst crimes a writer can commit). It means that I take the traditional tropes of the story and try to tell it with my own distinctive style. Be inspired by the stories around you and transform them into something that matches with your own style.
- Practice Writing Exercises. Exercises such as ‘free writing’, timed exercises or constrained exercises, allow us to stretch those writing muscles that seldom get used in day-to-day writing practice. Taking 5 minutes to compose a sentence where each word begins with the next letter of the alphabet, or 10 minutes to compose a haiku that sums up your plans for the day, can often produce something that inspires a fuller idea.
- Break with Routine. A lot of the time, we’re inspired by the things we see on a daily basis. We see the echo chamber of Twitter and FaceBook. We see the 9 – 5 of our daily experience and the regularity of everything we do outside that 9 – 5. Since I’ve started visiting the gym on a morning, I’ve written at least two stories that feature a character in the gym. I also work my dog each day and there are regular scenes in my stories where characters encounter unexpected surprises whilst walking dogs. Which suggests, if these versions of normality appear in my work because I’ve been exposed to them, lunch at a different location, a chat with different work colleagues, or an impromptu visit to a local tourist trap could all help to add variation to the content of my creativity.