Updated July 2023
We’ve all felt it. The blank look that creeps across our face as we stare at the computer screen. The utter lack of inspiration for writers. The lack of fire. Sometimes we can’t bring forth even a scrap of creative genius, and sometimes a once-inspiring idea suddenly goes stale. It’s something that happens to every writer, and everyone has his/her own way of dealing with the problem. We’ve put together a few ideas we hope will help get the word party started.
Coming up with fresh ideas:
Change of scenery. Yes, we know. You hear this all the time, but if it works, it’s worth a try. Jump on a bike, hop a train, pull on the sneakers, and go someplace different. It may be a new coffeehouse down the street, an unexplored neighborhood, even a tropical vacation, but the change of scenery may be just what you need to get a fresh perspective.
Eavesdrop. Blatantly and unabashedly eavesdrop on interesting conversations. Take notes. If nothing develops (and you don’t get caught), at least you will have honed your dialogue skills.
Carry a notebook. Sometimes our best ideas strike out of the blue, so be prepared and carry a notebook to capture them. Take notes on things you observe, capture interesting characters you encounter on the subway, or record great one-liners you overhear. Sometimes even one word can evoke an entire scene as you review your notes later.
Read. It can be an author whose style you admire or Gerbils Monthly magazine. Read something that inspires you, or check out something you’ve never considered reading before. If you’ve always been too embarrassed to buy a cheesy tabloid, do so now with the confidence of a good excuse: We’ll call it research. See what ideas are generated by the outrageous headlines, and get out of your own head for a while.
Take a class. Most writers spend an ungodly amount of time in front of a computer screen. Try taking a class that has nothing to do with writing, such as tai chi or cooking. You may meet some interesting people and develop new ideas from the setting. And you’ll be more relaxed as you create the perfect soufflé.
Free write. Sometimes the act of writing itself can get things started. Get a blank piece of paper and just start filling it up with whatever comes to mind. Be silly, shocking, or close your eyes and try to connect with the other side. Whatever it takes.
Give yourself a deadline. Generate a false sense of panic and tell yourself you have two hours to (fill in the blank). Sometimes working under pressure creates the best product, even if you know you won’t be fired if you miss the deadline.
Revitalizing old ideas:
Take a break. If you’ve been like a puppy and have worried an idea half to death, take a break and work on something else. If the idea is worth salvaging, it will eventually come back to life. If it doesn’t work after several breaks, it might be time to start over with something new.
A new angle. Research your idea from an entirely new perspective. Writing a short story about a farmer’s disastrous harvest season? Try approaching it from a new angle, such as a farmer’s daughter’s joyful wedding in the middle of a disastrous harvest season. Want to write about dogs? Imagine your subject from different perspectives, such as dogs from a vet’s point of view versus a child’s point of view. Brainstorm all possible angles surrounding your idea, and see what develops. If you’re unable to revive your passion for the once-hot idea, it may be time to scrap it, either temporarily or permanently. Our world provides a rich feast of ideas for the creative mind, and when the right concept comes along, you’ll know it. And write it.