This is something I’ve been able to overcome a few times before by simply relying on the past. It’s not always the easiest thing in the world to get around and when it sets in it can throw your whole day off, but sometimes it can help force you to look at things from a different perspective. Now, keep in mind, I’m no expert, guru, or literary master yet what follows are a handful of tips and tricks that have aided me when my writing would come to a screeching halt. I hope they can help you too…
If you feel your writing is starting to drag a little or you can’t think of anything at all I’d suggest just putting something down on the paper. Instead of giving in to the weight of that moment and letting it stall your momentum just barrel through it. If it’s your first draft then you’re probably going to rewrite most of the stuff you put down anyway so you might as well let the 75% of your work that’s garbage grace the pages of your manuscript so you can get to the 25% that’s pure gold. Even if you have to use the same words or phrases 100 times in a row it’s fine. When you go back for revisions you can worry about it, but unfortunately you can’t get to the revision process until you’ve officially finished the story, so just write.
It doesn’t matter if you’re producing a work of fiction, drawing on the real world is probably the best way to help your story move forward. And, honestly, it’s probably the easiest way, too. Conversations you’ve had or heard, a reworded phrase or line from your favorite book, a reimagined scene from a TV show or movie, anything and everything can be a source of inspiration. It’s the way of the world. Art imitates life which in turn gives rise to new life in the creative realm. It’s impossible to pull an idea from thin air without it having at least a tinge of reality to act as a foundation. Sights, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings can all play a critical role in your creative process and, if you have any aspirations of becoming a writer, you should let them.
Keep Your Ideas
I don’t know about anyone else but I tend to write a lot of notes. Hundreds. I use sticky notes, pieces of mail envelopes, whatever. If I get an idea I try to write it down because you never know where it might fit in to your life somewhere down the road. Good ideas are usually obvious and get the most attention, but I don’t think bad ideas should be discounted. There’s a reason it popped into your head in the first place so figure out why. If you can peel back the layers to a bad idea you might be able to find something you’re able to work with later. And it doesn’t even have to be a bad idea, maybe it just isn’t right for what you have in mind at the moment. That’s alright. Store it someplace for safe keeping and whenever you get stuck take a look to see if it can work for you. You can even take a few bad or mediocre ideas and come up with something incredible. What you need to remember is that you shouldn’t sell yourself, or your ideas, short. There was a reason it caught your attention. Maybe you should give it a chance.
A to B is Overrated
Most of the ideas I have are half-baked at best. They’re usually comprised of scenes or events I’d like to see brought to life. More often than not I can tell you how the middle or end of a story I have in mind plays out without having any clue how it begins. I know how I want certain things to unfold without knowing how to get that point, but that’s better than nothing. At the very least it’s a starting point. It may not be your traditional starting point but it allows you the opportunity to build on a section of your work you’re interested in instead of staring hopelessly at a section that has you confounded. Just find a moment, any moment. It can be dialogue you want your characters to have or a tragic situation that shapes your protagonist forever. From there find more of these moments. Once you have enough start tying them together. Of course you’ll have to revise and refine in order for everything to fit neatly, but you’ll end up with much more product and a lot less wasted time.
Let Your Story Live
One of the best lessons I’ve learned is how to let go of being the creator and allowing my work to take on a life of its own. Being able to sit back every once in a while and let the characters and scenes set a course for themselves. Not forcing circumstances but instead picking up on the natural rhythm and pattern being etched onto the page. Not doing so can inevitably lead to plot holes which should be avoided at all costs mainly because they undermine your credibility as a writer. You may want things to turn out a certain way but sometimes it’s just not meant to be and it’s during these times you have to decide if you’ll stay true to your story or be the architect of your own literary demise.