Twenty seventh in the 1K a Day Motivational series. I’ve used this weekly column to write about things that get in the way of my writing; things that inspire me or helped me along; troubles and concerns with writing; reviews of things I’ve watched/read/played that inspired me to keep writing. I’m relatively thin on content that applies to me personally of a given week or month, so I’m expanding the Motivational out a bit to hopefully encapsulate a greater range of topics relating to Creation Motivation.
This week I’m gonna talk about what the hell to do when you run out of ideas. I haven’t run out of ideas, and I challenge most people to truly admit they’ve completely exhausted their idea-banks, but I know it happens and it’s worth talking about.
What do you do when you’re just out of ideas for your creative endeavors?
Though I’m pretty much never out of ideas in a broad scope, what I do find happening to me sometimes is feeling creatively bankrupt on a given day, for a given subject, and I have to sort of stretch the writing muscles to get things in motion.
Similar to the start of a new writing project, or even a continuation of a project that you’ve maybe gotten a little lost on, stretching the writing muscles can be as easy as just reviewing notes, or previous day’s writing, or even doing some thoughtless word sprints. Just begin writing on something or nothing at all; begin and you’ll find that beginning is the hardest part most of the time. Once you are in motion, the ideas are there, waiting behind you. With a shovel. To bury you.
But that’s just one method to get you out of the hesitation of being out of ideas. Maybe you need to seek out a thing you really love for its writing or dialogue, remind yourself of greatness so you can go chasing after it. I know that often I find inspiration in the classics and my favorites even if I do not write that style.
Maybe you’re truly out of ideas. You have nothing in the brain to draw on, or everything you think of feels stupid, trite, done a thousand times. This, my friends, is where Writing Prompts come in handy. Writing Prompts are often designed just to get you writing. They take away the prompt, the inspiration, and do that part for you, and then just ask you to WRITE.
Many of the short stories and flash fiction stories I’ve posted on this blog were the result of writing prompts. Many of the ideas in my other stories are a result of a prompt of some sort, or of my other favorite thing in this realm, generators.
A generator is often a simple program that will spit out a bunch of random ideas or items, either for the purpose of getting a lot of names for an era or genre you’re writing for, or maybe to just get you moving in the right direction with a story title that sparks the imagination.
They Fight Crime! is perhaps my favorite prompt generator. I have never written a story from a prompt given to me from that, but I have sourced many ideas and characters from its glorious randomness.
Manual writing prompts, such as the kind that Chuck Wendig is known to produce on his blog, Terribleminds, are also some of my favorites.
Even a place like Reddit has subreddits designed specifically for getting your mind up and running, to get you producing words. I like to check r/writing, r/writingprompts, and r/simpleprompts on occasion just to see if some new idea sparks itself.
There’s a million and one prompts and generators out there that will give you a little kick in the pants and get you writing, even if it’s not on quite the thing you were intending to write.
Here’s the kicker, though: don’t look at a prompt that you like maybe half of and discard it. Change the other half! You’re under no obligation to stick to the prompt or generator exactly as it spits out randomness at you. You’re beholden only to your brain and the ideas you cull from any of a billion sources.
So use the tools at your disposal, get yourself writing, and always remember to write the hell on.