Writing when you’re out of ideas

How do you write when you’re not sure how to start, or if you have the will to write but no ideas?

Or… if you just need to get out of a rut and do some actual writing instead of procrastinating (say, by writing blog posts?)

I have some tips. These are all things that have 100% worked for me at some point. Please add your own in the comments, if you have ’em

– Free writing. This is pure, stream of consciousness word vomit. I like using 750 words but you can do it on paper or just in a word document or whatever. No critics allowed, just write whatever you’re thinking for five, ten minutes. It clears the clutter out of your brain.

– Go somewhere with almost no other stimulus. It could be a study, the library, a cafe … I’ve had the best luck writing in transit, when stuck on a plane or train. I’m guessing you don’t want to just go around buying flights just so you can write but intentionally trapping yourself on a flight without a book or magazine, but with a notebook and two pens can be very motivating. Long train rides are good too, I used to get stuff done in between Wellington and Paraparaumu when I caught the train out there.

– Go somewhere with lots of stimulus. This is for the ideas sparking side of things. I’ve had particular luck with museums. I just wander, follow my nose, try not to plan what I’m doing but go where things look interesting. Sometimes little weird ideas will pop into my head like ‘what if hedgehogs were super intelligent’ or ‘a statue with memory’ or whatever. Note ’em down. If you get struck by one idea in particular, most rooms in museums have a bench you can perch on and scribble away. Art galleries, beaches, forests, anywhere you can people watch are also good.

– Sit in your usual writing space and put on ambient music. This is probably something you’ve read a thousand times before but that’s because it works. My preferred ambient sound generator is noisli but there’s a tonne of other sites and apps that do the same thing. If white noise doesn’t work for you, try a playlist of songs you know very well and that you find comforting. Early Leonard Cohen and Alt -J is my preferred basis for a writing soundtrack.

– Try another form of creation. This works best if you have another hobby; something like painting, sewing, handcrafts etc. I’ve found that if I have trouble writing, spending and hour or so on patchwork can free up my mind. Like the act of making one thing puts my brain in the mood or space for creating words as well.

Some shorter ones to try:

– take a long bath and don’t take a book in with you
– watch an inspiring movie or Ted talk about chasing your dreams
– take a nap (seriously, just after a nap is my best writing time)
– break your routine; get up early and write, or write in your lunch break instead of reading
– brainstorm: mindmap on paper or out loud with a friend
– track down a book or list online of writing/story prompts and go for it

…and that’s all I can think of right now. Have you got any to add?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s