The Creative Well

One of the main topics up for discussion in writer’s groups is “what do you do when the ideas dry up?”

I know some writers who stress over the idea of inspiration–that writing can’t happen unless the muse is present and actively whispering sweet nothing plot devices into your ear. I’m not saying it’s wrong…but if you always depend on an active muse, you might sometimes find yourself lacking in the ideas department and hit the dreaded Slump.

And this is where the question comes from. Dried up ideas. A silent muse. Uncooperative characters. Dropping middle. Meandering plot. Whatever you want to call it, you and your novel have come to a screeching halt.

In all my years of writing, I’ve found myself falling into this trap. Depending on the muse. Depending on inspiration. In that time, I’ve also learned a few things. One, I keep idea notebooks. When lacking for an idea, I pop open a notebook and use it as a generator by turning to a random page and closing my eyes. Another method I’ve found is pulling away from my work for a day or two. The brain is always working, but I’m actively doing something, anything else.

The simple act of stepping back for a minute and letting the ideas simmer in your subconscious with new knowledge or through a new activity or skill can help bring your story new life. You’ll come back with fresh eyes, new twists.

Sometimes, however, it’s not as simple as stepping back. Sometimes you need to actively push yourself into something new for a while. When my YA novel, Blood Song, stalled about 30% in, I spent an afternoon with a competition archer. Between the knowledge I gained and a touch of practical experience, I came back to Blood Song with an idea for the next scene and I was able to move forward. I was able to jump right back in and push through to the end.

Stepping away helped me. It can help you too. When you find yourself lost and adrift in your personal sea or words, step back. Learn something new. Knit a scarf. Paint a picture. Do something for you, for your creativity, and you’ll find your words flying across the page.

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