Writer’s block—it happens to the best of us. You’re furiously typing on your laptop, running with an idea for this story you’ve been toiling over, and then… silence. No more hasty tapping on keys, no more listening to the cogs whir in your head. The quiet is deafening, but you’ve hit this wall in your head, and new ideas are trapped behind it.
It’s hard to muster up the motivation to climb over that wall or destroy it completely. When it comes to creative writing especially, it can be hard to overcome a lack of ideas. What’s going to happen next in the plot? Where will your characters go? Will your main character like classic Mozart, or the new Nicki Minaj album?
Writer’s block is a dream killer and a productivity suck. Instead of lying down and surrendering, however, I’ve come up with some ways to stay inspired as a creative writer that I’d like to share with you, my fellow authors.
In my post Tips for Managing Anxiety as a College Student, I talked about how I journal. A recap: when I journal about my day, I pretend to be anything other than my boring self; most times, I imagine myself as a kick-ass assassin named Grim. This is a sneaky way to force myself to do some creative writing every day, and I’ve found that it actually helps to get my proverbial creative juices flowing. When I’m struggling with what will happen next in a story, I try this journaling technique with one of the story’s characters. As I write what happened in my day through the voice of this character, I start to learn more about who they are as a person, and what they would do in certain situations. Sometimes, it ends up that real-life events make their way into my stories after having journaled about them in this way.
- Filling out a Character-Inspiration Sheet
You can find several variations of these online or on Pinterest. A character-inspiration sheet is basically a spreadsheet to fill out or a list of questions to answer that help you get to know your character better. Questions and topics range from your character’s favorite things to their beliefs, their motivations, and even their most prized possessions. When you’re struggling to get to know your character, or you’re having a hard time figuring out what your character would do in a certain situation, I suggest turning to an inspiration sheet. I recommend filling these out before you even start writing. I usually complete an inspiration sheet for all of my main characters so I can understand them as intimately as possible.
Check out these character-inspiration sheets:
- Mind Mapping
Mind maps work for essays too! This is one I created for US Lit
This is a great way to explore all of the possible avenues for your story. I have a blank whiteboard hung up on the wall in my dorm room. When I’ve hit an especially bad bout of writer’s block, I’ll step away from the keyboard, turn to the whiteboard, and write down the first idea for my story that comes to my mind—no matter how bizarre. Then, I’ll circle that idea, and branch off from there. Maybe I come up with another totally random and un-related idea. I’ll write that separately, then see if there’s some way I can connect previous ideas to this new one. I do this until I’ve drained my brain of all thought. This mode of brain-dumping helps me step out of the box I’ve created for myself; I’m able to explore wild possibilities I could have never thought of before for my stories. This is something else you can do if you feel the impending doom of writer’s block before you even sit down to write. It’s a great way to brainstorm ideas for a story ahead of time—a sort of initial inspiration if you will.
- Having Someplace to Write Down Ideas on the Go
Whether it’s in the Notes App on your phone (which is what I use), or in a small notebook you carry in your backpack, have someplace to write down the little ideas that come to you in your everyday life. This way, you can come back to these ideas instead of losing them in the depths of your mind. You might say you’ll remember without writing them down, but trust me, you never do. No matter how insignificant you think the idea might be now, still copy it down—it could inspire you later on down the line when you’re having a dry spell of ideas. Sometimes, I write down just a word that I want to use in a story; other times, I write down a whole character’s monologue. Don’t limit yourself when it comes to what sort of ideas you can write down here—anything goes!
- Finding the Perfect Writing Spot
For me, it’s the Boston Public Library’s Bates Hall. Working in such a quiet atmosphere allows me to really focus in on what I’m writing. I also love writing among the works of authors whose fame and notoriety I desire to achieve—super inspirational! I suggest finding a place that gives you similar vibes. When you’re trying to get inspired in a place that isn’t conducive to creativity, it can be quite difficult to get out of that rut. Even if you’re stuck writing in your dorm room, find ways to make that space as inspirational as possible. Hang up quotes that motivate you. Buy fake plants and place them all around to make yourself feel like a fairy. I don’t know, whatever floats your boat. Just get yourself into a space that won’t suck the creativity out of you.
If you’re really struggling with writer’s block, check out these pre-made brainstorming worksheets that will help you pull through any drought of inspiration.