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?


Things I Love Thursday

Spring blossoms

Spring blossoms

“The following products have been shipped:
1 x Rock Band 4 Band in a Box Bundle (PS4)
1 x free Microphone Stand”


On the weekend I went to the Tinderbox conference for children’s authors and illustrators, and it was a really solid, really useful thing for me to have done. Despite being sick as a dog with a cold which turned into a chest infection, I took copious notes, did some networking and made myself a really practical to do list for publishing.

I have started on my to do list by making myself an author page. There’s not much on it right now, but please like it and watch along as I put my journey into high gear. I also signed up for GoodReads so if that’s a thing that you’re on, add me there too! There’s a chance I will also make an author blog but… I’m aware that I already talk about my writing on here, and also it’s possible all these things may take my attention away from actual writing, which wouldn’t be ideal. I haven’t decided.

Also the convention gave me a massive boatload of story and project ideas, so that’s aces as well.

I’ve been playing this browser game called A Dark Room and goodness me but it’s compulsive. I’m so close to finishing I can taste it but I can’t quite beat the last challenge…

This is my jam is dead which is a bit on the sad side, but they’ve done a pretty neat archive.

This is a pretty great vid on where to start with Batman comics (she mentions a couple I hadn’t read, so had to order, heh)

Honourable Mentions: Sunshine, sprouting seeds, birds, antibiotics, good books, electric blankets, lego and my lovely Anna who I miss terribly but she gives me a smile every time she messages me and she keeps on buying me presents so I’m even more excited to see her next week because presents!

Could Have Been Me by the Struts

You ~ Keaton Henson
(it gave me feels about last year’s big Monsterhearts ship)

Things I Love Thursday


Spring! On the weekend we went and visited the calves (little moos) and the lambs (lambies) in Cornwall Park and it was pretty awesome. Plus, you know, blossoms, daffodils and warmer weather.


Colouring in! I love that colouring in for adults is a thing now. I started on my hipster colouring book and did this ‘You are Awesome’ page. It’s a good message to remember.

America! OMG I fly out tomorrow! There are plans for adventures and I shall be taking photos and omg. It’ll be intense I think, but I am looking forward to being in late American Summer and catching up with the cool people at XOXO and some of my States friends in other cities as well.

Anna! I’m really going to miss her on my trip, I’m dreading that. But it’s really good that I am so sad about being apart from her, and it will make the homecoming at the end of the trip not sad at all but joyous. It’s great to have something that important to me 🙂

Writing! well, more to the point, editing. This week I called the marvellous Lee Murray about what kinds of questions I should be asking my editor about my manuscript and she was amazingly super helpful and encouraging, and then I called my editor and got three pages of notes and advice on what to do with the novel going forward. It feels really good! I am going to not at all think about my novel while I’m away though, if I get writing inspiration I’ll write new things and have a creative play instead.

Honourable Mentions: chocolate milk, waffles, candy, new books, catching up with friends, new Face Off episodes, music, vegetables, delivery foods, postcards, decluttering, cleaning out and sleep.

I am so great

Taylor Swift’s new music video for Wildest Dreams is also pretty great

Things I Love Thursday

Today has been a day of exceptionally good feedback. The kind that takes your imposter syndrome and kicks it in the stomach and it goes flying out the door. I mean, it’s a slightly panicky feeling but it’s also a very good one. I had a very good performance review at work, which emphasised that I am actually good at my job and enjoying it and then I came back from lunch to an email from my manuscript assessor with 9 pages of useful notes, and the comment that it’s worth putting in the work because this story is interesting and engaging and she enjoyed reading it! And of course, the assessor is a high profile Young Adult novelist who I happen to be a fan of, which just makes it so much more awesome.

I am very happy 🙂

Friends who make time to see me when they visit Auckland, last weekend it was James and this weekend it’s Blair! So lovely.

I really love this literary road trips of America map

Baby gets glasses and smiles so wide when she sees her mama, so freaking cute.

Sometimes you just need to watch For the Birds:

Honourable Mentions: Old friends moving up to Auckland, wrapping up my Monsterhearts game with the praise of the players, strawberry milk, antibiotics, sharks, chocolate, ice creams and heaters.

Spotify is slowly winning me over, mostly with lovely curated playlists. I’ve been in there saving songs and making my own playlists that I guess they know me well enough for a weekly curated playlist just for me. Anyway, it gave me this gorgeous song this week and my goodness. It’s so lovely.

Anything for You ~ Ludo

Fantastic kinetic sculpture (esp good to watch with Brian Eno’s 1/2 from Music for Airports playing, which makes sense since the sculpture is in an airport)

Things I Love Thursday

I had some really good news today, which is that my young adult novel has been chosen for a manuscript assessment through the NZ society of authors. I very nearly didn’t send it it (there’s a blog post coming about that) but then at the very last moment I did and now it’s been selected! What this means is it will be looked through by a professional and I’ll get a bunch of feedback and generally it will be one step closer to being published! It’s super exciting and a nice ego boost to me, since I’m constantly feeling I’m not a ‘real’ writer.

Find Momo is a really fun game. And cute 🙂

Fancy new Field Notes turning up in my mail box…

jennitalula field notes

Lunch with Steve and Marguerite. I’ve really missed these two! I must try and visit Christchurch, although that will have to wait because…

I got accepted to XOXO again! Sophie and I have both reserved tickets, now we’re just trying to work out finances, etc. Watch this space, but I may be returning to Portland come September.

Honourable Mentions: Google sheep view, Late night shopping at St Luke’s, swimming and the steam room and spa after, limited edition rocky road snickers bars, warm socks, electric blanket, sleep, making lunches for Anna, Anna, Anna trying on ball gowns and getting craft done.

Kid Theatre presents Magic Mike: Warning! The Magic Bird song may get stuck in your head…

(Jimmy Fallon cannot handle the smoulder)

Cecilia and the Satellite ~ Andre McMahon in the Wilderness

Writing Wednesday

I’ve been chipping away at Kiki – my first novel, which is a middle school pitched story about two girls who find out they have magical powers, accidentally go into Faerie and have to try and find their way back. Similar to books like Narnia or Alice in Wonderland. They meet lots of neat characters along the way and learn about themselves and each other, etc etc.

I’ve been feeling pleased with doing just a couple of pages a day but something neat happened on Saturday. I went along with Anna to her barbershop group practice and sat and wrote while they sang. I could have just stayed behind at her house, but I’d read this brief article about ambient noise boosting creativity.

I guess it inspired me to try it out. So I took my new wee windows tablet and it’s dinky bluetooth keyboard along with me, sat at the dining table and over the course of the three ish hours of singing, in between breaks for puzzle games, I got 15 pages of my book rewritten.

I’m pretty pleased with this progress.

Also I’ve found that coming home after a busy day at work I sometimes feel a bit brainless. In a lot of ways, feeling a bit brainless is the best frame of mind for me to concentrate on writing; there are no distractions, my brain is calm and open, I can just plunge into the story and focus clearly.

So my optimum writing times at the moment are when I’ve just woken up or when I’m feeling sort of tapped out. In fact I have been known to have a brief nap on the weekend and then wake up to do some writing – the sleep sweeps my mind clean.

Ambient sound is also a great one – I usually put on some calm quiet music like Leonard Cohen or Belle and Sebastian, but there are some amazing ambient noise websites purpose built for writers. This is my favourite: Soundrown because you can mix and match different sound genres (I seem to gravitate to some mix of birds, night and rain).

As of this evening I’m sitting at 77 of 136 pages rewritten, and feeling great about my progress.

Writing Wednesday

Book Launch!

I had a book launch!

The creepy child short story anthology I have two stories in had it’s Wellington launch today at the Quality Hotel. Four of us read out stories, and I was one of them. I was kind of nervous, it’s been a while since I read in front of people.

However everyone was very lovely and the other readings were fantastic so that gave me courage. I read my shorter story, the strange fantasy about a little boy looking for the end of the rainbow and people clapped and afterwards said it was good, which was very encouraging.

There’s something magical about people asking you to sign a book, because you have stuff printed inside of it! Magical. I think I’m a real author now? I think? Heh.

The turnout for the launch was really good, too, lots of people and warm conversation and yeah. It was a success!

You can order a copy here, if you wish to.