Over the past few weeks, for various reasons, I have been singularly lacking in ideas. And creative drive. And any kind of intelligence at all, really. All I want to do is sleep, or if I can’t do that then curl up under a blanket and watch cookery shows on TV. Which isn’t good when (a) I have three short stories to write before the end of the year and (b) I promised myself I’d finish my current rewrite/edit by then as well. So, to help anyone who is likewise afflicted with the demon Uninspiration, here are a few tips to get those ideas flowing.
1. Do something else. There’s absolutely no point in sitting there staring at a computer screen for hours on end and feeling miserable because you’ve only written two sentences (and you know quite well you’ll delete them the following day). I know some people say you should force yourself to write a certain amount every day, but if you just can’t then there’s no point beating yourself up about it. Listen to music. Go for a walk. Paint the kitchen ceiling. Above all, don’t think obsessively about whatever it is you’re stuck on. Your subconscious will whirr away in the background and by the time you return to your desk, chances are that scene will have coalesced in your mind.
2. Be prepared. This is of course an excellent rule for life in general, but it applies to writing as much as anything else. Ideas tend to pop up when you least expect them: in the bath, on the bus, in the middle of a boring meeting. I often find that when I’ve hit a spell of uninspiration, it’s only when I’m away from my laptop that I can have any ideas at all – because that’s when I relax and stop putting so much pressure on myself. So carry a little notebook around with you, and then when the ideas do show up you’ll be able to capture them. (I realise this may be tricky in the bath; this is where a voice recorder or a willing spouse comes in handy.)
3. Go with the flow. Half the time, what I should be working on isn’t at all what I want to be working on. And usually I find the best way to deal with that is simply to go with it. Write what needs to come out of you, not what you think you ought to be writing. Forcing the issue will only result in something that’s stilted, awkward and/or clunky. I realise this isn’t a great solution when you have deadlines to meet, but even half an hour spent working on your current passion can get you back in the right mindset. Then, once you’ve showed yourself that you aren’t an utter failure who will never string a coherent sentence together again, you can get on with whatever it is that needs doing.
4. Try a new perspective. Sometimes when I’m really stuck, I go back to a scene I’ve already written and write it from a different POV. Or I take a passage of text and switch it from first to third person or vice versa. Or I pick a character, invent a scenario that isn’t going to appear in any book, and walk them through it to see how they’d react. This kind of playing around has a number of benefits. It reassures you that you can still wield your tools. It teaches you things you didn’t know about your characters, and allows you to experiment with different ways of doing things. Best of all, it might even give you a better way of handling a scene or a completely new idea you haven’t considered before. If nothing else, it’s fun.
Anyway, I hope that helps. And if all else fails, you can always write a blog about the issue.