Thursday, May 1, 2014

All Out of Ideas? Tips for Finding Something to Write About...

You're out of ideas and can think of nothing new. You sit and stare at that computer screen or blank paper, and it laughs at you. Your mother keeps telling you all of your ideas are wonderful when you know FOR A FACT they are hot garbage.

Any writers who say they have never had trouble coming up with a new project or have never been stuck on where to take characters are liars.

Coming up with a new idea is hard, especially after you've just finished a project. Many times, you've poured out all of your brilliant brain juice into your previous project, and now you simply have nothing left.

Fear not! Grab some tea, sit down, and listen.

One of the most helpful things to do when you can't write is read.

I have heard so many authors tell new writers, "You must read. It's your best tool."

As a matter of fact, my eighth-grade yearbook quote was about this. Right next to my crimped hair, braces, and overdone eyeliner, it said, "If you don't have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write." –Stephen King.

If only my graduate self would listen to my eighth-grade self. I can go back and look at journals and poem books where I was pumping out some writing every five seconds! It was horrible, absolute garbage, BUT it's better than the blank page I've been staring at for the past few days.

So, my solution? Take everyone's advice and read. I spent the entire weekend in the bookstore drinking overpriced coffee and what I refer to as "rich girl water," which is shaped like a square and fits in no cup holder. Book after book, I explored the store. Some books I saw and thought, "What in the Hello Kitty is this? I never would that thought of this, it's brilliant!" Others I thought, "This, ladies and gentlemen, is why the youth of today are the way they are." Either way, I came back with several ideas. 

Whether it's a character, a setting, a plot from a story you think would be cool to continue or one you want to write a prequel to, you'll find something to write about.

Courtney's Bookstore Tips:

1.     Go alone. You can't possibly form amazing, wonderful, literature-changing thoughts with someone yapping in your ear about how they want to check out the sale at J. Crew. Although the sale is important, your writing is "importanter."

2.     Get an overpriced coffee or water. It just makes you feel better.

3.     Don't bring a heavy purse that you have to carry on your arm. This was my mistake, I couldn't juggle my book stack and rich girl water AND my purse. I abandoned the purse in the car later that morning. Put your stuff in your pockets or if you’re one of those people who must have a purse (me), use a crossbody.

4.     Have a notebook and something to write with. You will see and read through so many things in less than thirty minutes, there is no way you'll remember all of the ideas you have. WRITE THEM DOWN. Forgot paper? Use your phone.

5.     Don't be afraid to look at books you wouldn't normally read. Science fiction? Romance? Horror? You never know what you might discover. Maybe you'll want to create the story of that pathetic blonde girl screaming at the top of her lungs on every classic horror cover. Why is that girl freaking out and not running? Answer that question, and you're well on your way to a thrilling story of your own.

If All Else Fails...

Never fret about not having an idea. Take a step away from your computer or paper, and get involved in life. You'll find something to write about. Also, write anything down, even IF it's hot garbage. Maybe you can clean it up and create a story that will make someone other than your mother proud.


Courtney Warren is a writer for her local newspaper, as well as a graduate student at Hollins University where she is pursuing a degree in Children’s Literature. She has a bachelor’s degree from Delta State University, the home of the Fighting Okra (which she is incredibly proud of). She loves to read just about anything placed on the shelves but has a special place in her heart for the Harry Potter series.

When she is not writing about herself in third person, she loves to write stories about middle schoolers with spunky attitudes who intend to save the world, as well as drinking Earl Grey tea from a very prissy teacup.

Check out her blog, Tea, the Spirit, & a Pen.

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