So you have writer’s block. It’s okay… almost every writer has been there, whether they write fiction or nonfiction. They’re in the mood to write, they have the need to write… but they have no idea what to write about. Brainstorm all you want, sometimes the ideas just refuse to come. What can you do if this happens to you? Is it time to just give up on the idea of writing for the moment? Certainly not.
When trying to find an idea for your writing, especially if you’re writing fiction or poetry, it’s important to keep in mind that ideas can come from anywhere. A funny bumper sticker on an old Toyota might give you a great idea for a short story on the creation of the phrase, or a spotted dog that you see in the park might spark an image of a sci-fi epic starring a dalmation-esque humanoid. The associative leaps that you can make don’t have to be limited by anything other than your imagination and sometimes all that your imagination needs is a little challenge.
The first thing that you can do is try to come up with ideas that have nothing to do with writing. They don’t always have to make sense in fact, the ones that don’t can make your imagination work harder than the ones that do. For example, try to figure out what sound the color orange makes, or what falling smells like, or maybe even what is the opposite of shrimp cocktail. It may seem like an odd exercise, but you’d be surprised where your mind will take you when faced with an illogical contemplation.
Sometimes, contemplation such as this will lead you to think about other things… things that could be the beginning of a story idea. Maybe the “what falling smells like” idea leads you to picture a man who’s falling to his death, calmly trying to place a smell that he’s picked up. Maybe you take the “shrimp cocktail” scenario to the far reaches of imagination and wind up writing about a single tuna about to be caught in a net. If you’re having trouble brainstorming ideas, use completely out-of-the-loop scenarios to seed the clouds.
Of course, that won’t always work. If you still can’t come up with any ideas that you’d like to pursue, go for a walk. Read the paper. Do any of a hundred common everyday activities and stop at some point and ask, “What’s the story behind that?” Maybe you’re wondering about a 25-year-old who you found in the obituaries, or perhaps your attention was caught by the Chihuahua with the pink spiked collar. Regardless of what it is, the world is full of potential inspiration… if you’re willing to stop and actually look at some of what’s going on around you. Everything and everyone has a story to tell. Sometimes they just need someone to tell it for them.
Should you still find yourself in a rut then try doing something that may or may not be out of the ordinary for you… play. Now, this doesn’t mean that you should fire up the PlayStation or play a rousing game of Scrabble (though both might work); instead try playing like you did when you were a kid. They call it “make believe” because you make yourself believe that it’s real… so let it be real. Act out the action, do the voices, use props. Tell a story with your body and then act it out on paper. Be the hero. Rescue the princess. Defeat the dark wizard. Have fun. In addition to being a great source of ideas, this type of activity will also keep you young well into old age!
Sometimes though, nothing you do will really seem to get the wheels turning to give you ideas… and that’s ok. If you can’t get any ideas for what to write about, then sit down and read a book by your favorite author, or bake a pumpkin pie, or do anything else that you enjoy doing. There’s more to life than writing and who knows… inspiration might strike when you least expect it.