I never get writer's block. I can't remember the last time I sat down to write and couldn't think of anything to write about. It just doesn't happen to me.
Image from Pixabay.
Now, I don't mean to drive an ice pick into your eye, but it's the truth. I write every day, and the words never seem to stop flowing. A lot of what I write is client work. As a freelance writer, I am tasked with writing--either under byline or as a ghost--blog posts, articles, white papers, case studies, pitch decks, e-books, and a host of other content products on a regular basis. Aside from that, I have my own personal writing interests that include poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and other mental collateral. I never just sit and stare at a blank page, and it's because of one little writing secret that I have kept close to my chest for a number years. What's my secret?
What I Could Have Written About Today
That's right. I ward off writer's block before it ever has a chance to show itself by maintaining an abundance of ideas. My struggle, quite often, is in deciding what to write about. It isn't not thinking of something to write about.
See the difference?
With writer's block, the writer struggles with putting words on the page because she can't think of anything to write about. But I never have that problem because I've always got something to write about. I just have to decide what I'm going to write about each time I sit down to write.
For instance, for this blog post, I could have written about any of the following:
- My amazing weekend with my grandson Nathen and my wife
- Since I didn't blog over the weekend (because of my amazing excursion with Nathen and my wife), I could have posted a fictional story (I have quite a few of these just lying around) like I usually do on Saturdays
- Or, I could have posted my usual Poetry Sunday post today instead
- I could have posted a reminder that tomorrow is the deadline for the farmpunk fiction contest
- I could have wrote and published a story for this week's Steem Monster fantasy story contest
And these five ideas are just off the top of my head. This doesn't account for the idea file I keep on hand that I can often revisit to find something to write about.
How to Maintain an Abundance of Ideas
All you have to do is go through your list of ideas and find one that is appealing to you right now. Then, you start writing.
The thing to keep in mind about idea files is this: The items you keep in it are just ideas. Nothing more. And the thing about ideas is this: They are all at various stages of development. Some ideas may simply be sketches. For instance,
Write about a space colony where the inhabitants survive by siphoning the atmosphere from other planets.
There's an idea that is nothing more than a sketch. There are no other details to help me out. It's just an undeveloped story idea with no outline, no character development, no plot notes, or anything else. All of that is yet to come. But, it's a good starting point. If I come across an idea like this in my idea file, I have to decide if I'm ready to invest my time in the development of the details to make this story idea succeed. If not, I move on to another idea.
Other ideas may be partially fleshed out in the form of a summary. Here's one:
Deep in the core of planet earth is a buried city. A group of scientists and a child prodigy set out to learn everything they can about this city. They must figure out a way to excavate the earth to allow for their safe travel from the surface to the core, how to protect themselves from its immense heat, how long to stay, and what to do when they get there. But the trouble they find along the way is more than they ever dreamed of.
Now there's a little bit more information. It's not quite a detailed outline, but it's a good story summary. I still have to create character profiles, flesh out the plot a little more, create the obstacles to their success and go into detail about the actual conflict. It's do-able, but am I ready right now to flesh all of that out? If not, I move on.
Some ideas are simpler - A short story about a three-headed midget mutant and his friends. (I actually wrote this one). Others are more complex. I'm sure you get the idea.
Copyright 2013 by Allen Taylor
To keep an idea file, all you need is a notepad (physical or virtual) or a spreadsheet. I usually keep mine in Windows Notepad. It's easy and allows me to write as much or as little about each idea as possible. Microsoft Word or OpenOffice work just as well. On a Mac, you have similar tools. Some writers use Microsoft Excel or something similar. Other writers use market tools like Scrivener. Whatever works for you.
Where Do You Find Ideas for Your Idea File?
Now that you have an idea file, where do you find ideas to put in it? It's not as hard as it seems. If you get a lot of ideas, you should start writing them down.
Every time I get a new idea (which is multiple times a day), I put it into my idea file. Most times, I'm not ready to act on an idea. It's just an idea. I'll flesh it out later.
It could be that I don't have the time at that moment to work on it, or it could be that I'm already working on other ideas and will come back later to this new idea. But, honestly, I have so many ideas that I'll never get to them all. And that's why it is sometimes difficult to pick something to write about. There are so many ideas to explore, I can't possibly explore them all. And that's okay because I'll at least always have something to write about.
So where do these ideas come from? Here are some ways I get ideas:
- Observation - When I'm out and about, I pay attention to other people. What are they doing, what are they saying, who are they with, what are they wearing, and why is it important? I take note of as much detail as possible and when I get to where I am able, I write it down. Sometimes, ideas for stories come on the spot. Other times, they come later.
- Reading - Reading short stories, poems, novels, newspaper and magazine articles will often spark an idea for a story--either fictional or nonfiction.
- Personal experience - What happens to me or people I know can often become fodder or story material.
- Dreams - Sometimes, a dream can be so vivid that I have to write it down. It can become a story or a part of a story.
- Memories - At other times, memories of past events or things I've witnessed can be good story material.
You may come up with other ways to develop ideas. Anything is possible.
One final thing to say about ideas is this: Not every idea need enter a story or article exactly as it comes to me. I'm a writer. I'm free to create. The ideas are jumping off points. I can take some big leaps sometimes.
For instance, I was sitting around one day thinking about all the ways people jack things up. It made me think of some people I know who are always trying to control things. You may know a few yourself. They want to control every detail of every event that involves anyone at all, and the more they try to control things the more they jack things up. So I came up with this character called Dr. Franklin Benn (reverse the names for a real person's nomenclature) who, through his scientific experiments, was flubbing the universe.
"Flubbing the Universe" is only published in audio form online, not in text. So you'll have to listen to Christopher Boyle read the story on SoundCloud, and he does an awesome job. But be prepared, it's no childrens story.
Anyways, I hope I've given you something to think about. Create an idea file. Drop every idea you ever have into it. For some, you'll include a little detail (or no detail at all), and for others, you may include a lot more detail. Use that file to find something to write about. If you're consistent about this, you should never get writer's block again.
Get your weird lit on:
| Limerents in the Bog | Garden of Eden | Sulfurings | Deluge |
| | | | |
| At Amazon | At Amazon | At Amazon | At Amazon |
Review Me, Please
While you're here, check out the backside 5 (my five latest posts):
- Don't Look Now, But That Yahoo Done Went Crypto
- 5 Things You Should Know About Fundition
- Pay It Forward Curation Contest Entry for Week #22
- Farmpunk Fiction Contest, the Second
- Poetry Sunday: 'If I May Take Thy Hand' (A Modified Sestina)
A sampling of fiction links:
- Farmpunk Fiction: Altland's Gambit
- Memorandum of the Ministry of Silly Putty
- My Secret Life as a Garden Gnome
A sampling of poetry:
Steem Monsters stories:
created and used by veterans
with permission from @guiltyparties