The reason you are reading this post is because I have run out of writing ideas.
There are all sorts of solutions to this problem. Let’s explore them together.
Yes, yes, I know; how can you write when you have run out of ideas?
It is crucial that you write every day. This should be nonnegotiable. I will, however, give you one day off a week, so it’s really only six days a week. Here are some ideas to implement if you have no novel, short story, poem, or writing job on your plate:
- Do Method Writing. Every day, take one small piece of your life – past, present, or even future – and write for 15 to 20 minutes. Describe an event and how you felt while you were experiencing it. Don’t worry; no one needs to read this. Then file it away for possible use in a future writing project.
- Do free writing. Similar to Method Writing, take 15 to 20 minutes to just dump words on paper. Look at the clock on the wall and describe the second hand. Listen to the children playing outside and make up a story about one of them. Vent about your evil mother-in-law. Write about anything that comes to mind. Think stream-of-consciousness. Nothing has to make sense.
- Write in longhand. Research has shown that writing in longhand has many benefits, not the least of which is peace of mind. Daily journaling has been shown to improve mood. You don’t necessarily have to journal if you choose to write in longhand; no matter what you write, you will release creative juices you might not experience from using a keyboard. Creative juices = writing ideas.
These three ideas are not exclusively for writer’s block or a dry well of ideas. Even you are working on a project, doing one of these for 15 to 20 minutes every single day will help get you started in the morning (or evening, or whenever you write). Think of them as warm-up exercises.
Writers must read.
This is another nonnegotiable rule for authors of every stripe. Certainly have a book by your bedside table, and try to carve out a chunk of time every day just to read. Many writers are in the middle of several books. I am frequently in the middle of two physical books, one Kindle book, and a nonfiction volume I read only on the weekend. Each and every one holds a wealth of writing ideas.
Books are full of ideas to write about, and it’s okay to “steal” themes and characters. Just put your own spin and stamp your own voice (or the voice of a new character) on your work.
Be aware of other reading opportunities, too, such as magazines, newspapers, fliers, your cigarette package. You are bound to discover all sorts of ideas to write about. How about a story of Marlboro Man? Or why you hate the New York Times (doesn’t everyone?). Perhaps an advertisement for a lawn mower (human, not machine) will take you back to your salad days when you mowed lawns for pocket money.
And don’t forget that nonfiction is also full of wonderful, creative ideas to write about.
For more writing ideas, look at old photo albums. My husband and I infrequently look at the table pictures of our wedding. (Pro tip: tell your wedding photographer not to take any table pictures. You won’t remember who half the people are ten years down the line, and pictures of half-eaten food are gross.)
Google your favorite singer or actor and read about his or her exploits. Or Google something you’ve always been interested in but never took the time to learn about. There is so much material you can garner from a Google romp, for both fiction and nonfiction pieces. Keep a list of everything you want to learn more about, and choose one each time your metaphorical ideas database is empty.
Read obituaries. There’s a whole world of ideas and quirky vignettes inside these columns. A word, an episode, and list of family members can set off a whole chain of story events in your head – which you should immediately get down on paper.
There’s nothing like a nice jog or vigorous walk to clear your head and give your brain a break so it can once again fill up with things to write about.
Meet a friend for coffee, go to a museum, see a film, go ice skating or bowling (or observe those who are doing it). Go to the beach, take a train ride. There are so many writing opportunities waiting to be discovered! You don’t have to necessarily find an exact and detailed story to write, but just getting away from your desk will go a long way toward firing up those creative brain cells.
I’m interested in hearing other ways to prime your writing pump. Let me know in the Comments how you find ideas to write about. And of course,