One Way to Beat Writer’s Block

Ever find yourself in a creative log jam? Try the following technique excerpted from my StoryWeaver story development software to help regain your inspiration:

1. Inspiration

Inspiration can come from many sources: a conversation overheard at a coffee shop, a newspaper article, or a personal experience to name a few. And, inspiration can also take many forms: a snippet of dialogue, a bit of action, a clever concept, and so on. One thing most inspiration has in common is that it is not a story, just the beginnings of a story. To develop a complete story, you’ll need a cast of characters, a detailed plot, a thematic argument, and the trappings of genre.

But how do you come up with the extra pieces you need?

In the questions that follow StoryWeaver will help inspire you, even if you can’t come up with an idea to save your life! If you don’t yet know what your story is going to be about, StoryWeaver will help you find out. And if you do have something already worked out, these questions will help you fill in the details.

2. What do you have to start with?

If you already have an idea of what your story is about, describe it briefly in your word processor. Don’t go into great detail at this time, just the key concepts, people, and events. If you don’t yet have a story idea, advance to the next step and StoryWeaver will help you come up with one.

3. Nonsense!

If you are stuck for ideas, it’s probably because you are trying to force yourself to be creative – a situation often referred to as “Writer’s Block.” Fortunately, there is a trick you can use to break through Writer’s Block and get your creativity flowing again! First, write down three arbitrary nonsense words. Don’t stop to think it over, just jot down the first three words that come to mind, as in a word-association test.

4. Meaning

Now, imagine that all of your nonsense words had to become part of your initial story idea.  How could they fit in?  What could they possibly  mean?  See if you can rework your short story description to include them.

You’re probably not going to want to keep that material in your story, but just the process of altering your story from a whole new perspective can begin to put a few cracks in that wall between you and your creativity.

But what if you didn’t have even a story idea to begin with?  Then ask yourself how many different stories can you think of that incorporate those three words.  Write a few of those concepts down just to get rid of your creative cobwebs.  You may just find that the words start to flow more and more easily until you are in the mood to make progress on your actual project.

5. What’s Going One Here?

We all try to find meaning in what we see. That is why we identify pictures in inkblots, see faces in wood grain, and animal shapes in clouds. So even when no meaning is intended, our minds can’t help but impose it.

By picking words at random, and then looking for their collective meaning, we move our minds out of creative mode and into analysis mode. In other words, we temporarily shift from communication to interpretation. In so doing, our subconscious automatically provides alternative meanings that fit what we see. It just can’t help itself.

Of course, many of the ideas you come up with may be completely ridiculous and not useful at all, though there is always the chance a few might work their way into your story.  But that really wasn’t the point of the exercise.  The whole purpose here is to break free of Writer’s Block, and the very process of shifting out of forced creative mode and into analysis mode usually does the trick.

So, even if none of the nonsense interpretations are usable in and of themselves, when you return to your original ideas, you’ll probably find whole new inspirations easily come to mind.

Bottom line.  Sometimes a little nonsense is the best place to find meaning.

Melanie Anne Phillips

This article is drawn from the author’s
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