Running out of Ideas

“Don’t wait for inspiration. It comes while Working.”

Henri Matisse

When we start out writing, and we know that we are writers, we sometimes have the worry that there just aren’t enough ideas out there, or that, you don’t have access to the ideas that are swimming around in the ether.

I hear you. I’ve had that same fear. In fact, every time I’ve started a blog, I’ve had that fear. I’m here to tell you, the more you work on that which you are passionate about, the more inspired you become.

Blogging

I’ve had plenty of blogs—from the early days of Livejournal and OpenDiary (before the term “blog” was around), to personal blogs, to travel blogs, tarot blogs, foraging and sustainability blogs, to spiritual blogs…I could go on. And with every single of one of them, I worried that I wouldn’t have enough to say.

But as soon as I started writing, trying to brainstorm my first ten posts, more ideas would come to me.

When I started my Tarot blog, I had no idea what I wanted to say about the Tarot other than defining the cards—as if there weren’t already a thousand websites out there already doing the same. But as I began to write, I started to gain ideas.  I realized that I was putting so much into my posts that they could be divided up. When I divided them up, I found I had enough to say to further divide the posts up, and so on.

It got to the point where I was writing three posts a day—I don’t recommend that, by the way. It’s exhausting. But the point is, when I started to do the work, I gathered more and more ideas.

While my Tarot blog is somewhat neglected these days, I still have much more to say. So much so that I’ve been in the process of creating a tarot podcast with a friend of mine.

Like me, she has struggled to level with the idea that we would have enough to talk about, as neither of us wanted to go into the definitions of the cards, specifically. So, we committed to eight episodes. We decided we would make eight episodes, and if we still had ideas after that, then we would go for another eight, and so on.

As it stands, each season is about eight episodes, or will be, once they’re released, and we have enough content planned for at least three seasons. And the ideas keep on flowing.

Creative Flow

I know, that’s all well and good if you have a topic you know about, but what about for creative writing?

I have a little personal story for that, as well.

Years ago, my story was rejected from an online competition because I didn’t have an author website or any followers on my social media. At the time, the only social media I used was Facebook, and that was just to keep in touch with people. I didn’t know I needed them.

I was told by the editors that they liked my story, but a website and social media presence was essential to be published on their website.

I was annoyed to say the least, but I promised myself that would not be the reason why I didn’t get published again.

So, I invested in an author website. I had no idea what to put on there. I didn’t have anything published yet other than an article in the local newspaper, once. I didn’t want to write about writing because I worried that I wouldn’t have enough to say and the website was about showcasing my creative writing, not my non-fiction.

In the end, I decided that I would write book reviews to get readers to my website and publish flash fiction pieces. I promised myself one of each, every week.

As soon as I announced this commitment on my website, the fear took hold of me. I had no idea what I was going to write about, or even if I could write flash fiction. I’d never done it before. I’ve always been a long-form writer.

I used my Tarot cards for writing prompts, and somehow generated the first few stories. Once I got used to producing a 1200-word story every week, the ideas started to flow. I began to find inspiration everywhere. I watched an It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode where Dee loses her cat in the wall, and from there I developed a horror serial that landed me a columnist position at Carpe Nocturne Magazine. I saw a jogger every day on the way out into Snowdonia, and wrote a horror serial called, The Walker.

That summer, I wrote dozens of flash fiction pieces, some that found homes in publications, and some that were drawn out into novels, or novellas. Many were thrown away, or just left up on my website (the website is no longer up, sorry!), or live in a drawer for inspiration later.

Either way, the more I wrote, and forced myself to write, the more ideas I came up with.

When you turn on the faucet, your words will flow. Your energy flows where your intention goes.

Your Homework

Challenge yourself to write one flash fiction piece a week for the next 12 weeks. It doesn’t matter if they’re any good. It doesn’t matter if you’ll show them to anyone, only that you write them.

Depending on who you ask, a flash fiction piece can be as little as 300 words, or as many as 1500 words. I’m the kind of person who laughs at word-count maximums and overshoots, so I tried to keep my flash fiction pieces around 1000 words. But do whatever speaks to you.

Keep an idea notebook with you so you can write down anything that can be used as a flash fiction base. You’ll be surprised how quickly you fill that notebook up.

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Why Do You Want to Write?

One of the first things I ask clients when we’re getting to know each other is why it is that they want to write.

Why Do you Write?

We all have our reasons, and for most of us, it just boils down to one thing: there’s a story burning inside that needs to be introduced into the world.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons to write. It’s a form of self-expression, it’s fun playing with the alchemy of words, it’s a way of earning money, it just seems like something interesting to try out, etc. There’s no wrong reason to write.

If there’s no wrong reason to write, then why do I ask?

No matter what the reason is to write, it has to boil down to one thing. Without that one thing, then the writer is going to be in for a difficult ride. This thing is what holds us together when we find a plot hole that is going to force us to change everything we had written already. It’s the thing that’s going to get us through writer’s block. It’s the aspect that makes re-reading your story for the twentieth time worth it to make sure all the typos are out and every sentence is what we need it to be. It’s going to be the thing that helps us cope with rejection letters and potential negative criticism.

It is the magical ingredient that no matter how many books on the subject you read, you cannot formulate how to conjure it. It needs to appear organically, and when it does, you need to nurture it.

Before I tell you what this ingredient is, I’m going to show you have to figure out if you have it or not.

Finding the Ingredient

It’s actually a pretty simple process. But don’t let simplicity undermine its value. Delving into yourself and really getting to the core of any matter is going to be how you discover yourself and your direction. It’s how you can understand how you want to market yourself as an author, how you write your stories, how you present yourself and your ideas, and even the way you choose to release your story into the world.

It’s the Why Game.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Write a list of every reason you can think of for why you want to write, or why you are a writer.
  2. Number them in importance
  3. Take the three most compelling reasons for why you’re a write, and as yourself why.
    For example, if your reason is because your story has to be told, ask yourself why.
  4. Ask why again
  5. And again.
  6. Repeat until you cannot come up with any other answers.
  7. When you get to this point, then you have the core of your answer.

Now, I want you to try this before you read on. Get out a piece of paper and give exercise a go. Hopefully, the answers all boil down to the same thing.

Okay, are you sure you’ve done this exercise?

Alright. I’ll believe you. Read on.

The Ingredient

There are of course variant terms to go along with this, so you can replace the word if need be. But the ingredient that is absolutely essential if you want to be able make it to your writing goals is joy.

If you don’t find enjoyment in what you do, it’s likely that you’re going to quit. I do say likely. There are people who write who don’t like it, but they have the goal of earning money. Writing for the love of money is a hard task, but there are people out there who do it (I encourage you to check out the Facebook group, 20booksto50k if you want to look further into it), and have a harder time of it.

 “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

~Robert Frost

If there is no enjoyment in what you’re doing, it’s going to come through in your writing.

Writing, like anything else, can have difficult moments. Tom Robbins says that “writing is the hardest physical work there is.” If you’ve ever been stuck against a block or in a hole (writing-related metaphor, of course), then you understand.

But what gets us out of those situations, when the going gets tough, is the joy we have involving the problem, of getting to the finish line, of revising to make the story better. Joy is what pulls us through.

So, when I ask my clients why they are writing, it’s to gage where to start with them. Do they love what they do? How much? If not, why is that?

Sometimes the goal is helping to find the joy, and sometimes it’s to remember the joy so they have something to hang onto during this crazy, crazy ride.


Reminder

Through April and May 2020, I am offer Pay What Feels Right sessions. This means that you can have a session and pay what feels right to you. Read more about it here. Or, you can fill out the form below to arrange an initial Free 30 minutes session to see if we work well together.

Book a Free 30-Minute Session with Me

Are you thinking about working with me, but just aren’t entirely sure? Fill out the form, schedule a call, let’s talk. This is a no-pressure, non-sales-pitch call, where we talk about you and your writing, and whether or not you want to work with me. Let’s chat!

December 5 Journal Prompt: What Are Your Fears?

What in Life Scares You?

In part of knowing yourself as a writer and as a person, knowing what scares you is a great way of understanding what might act as a block in your life. Of course there are survival fears, such as earthquakes, lightning, being mugged, scorpions, etc. But a lot of times we have fears that have to do with social status, with our families, with our work. These things aren’t survival fears, but culturally constructed fears. In our evolved world where we have less to be morally afraid of, these non-life-threatening fears are just as valid.

Don’t take councel from your Fear

James Faust

Knowing what it is in life that scares you can do two things:

  1. It can inspire your writing, creating writing prompts
  2. It can help you develop more multi-facetted characters
  3. Most importantly, they can serve to block your writing and your path to success.

Fears as Blocks

Especially for writers who are just starting out, there is a lot of fear. Our fears can make or break us. They can work as something to motivate us into action, or they can stop us dead in our tracks by keeping us from starting on our goals, finishing our goals, or even from releasing our goals into the world.

Fear of Commitment Lies Behind the Fear of Writing

Hilary Mantel

Journal Prompt

Spend some time making a list of what scares you. This can be general phobias you have (heights, flying (that’s mine), spiders, trains, fires, etc.) but also the fears that keep you up at night.

Are you afraid of what people will think if they find out you write romance? Are you afraid of what people will think if you tell them that you write at all? Are you afraid to start writing because you think it will take away from your family? Are you afraid to start writing because it might affect your job? Are you afraid of self-publishing because of the costs?

Write down every fear that you can think of and then rank it from worst to not so bad, 1 being the worst.

Spend some time with this list. Spend time journaling and asking yourself what each of these fears is doing to block your path. Are they preventing you from writing? Are they preventing you from finishing your projects? Are they enough to make you give up the idea of writing at all?

For many of the fears you come up with, you’ll find that they either aren’t as big of a deal as you think they are, or they’re an excuse. However, there are of course some that run deep, and you need to spend time working through these fears as well.

Untracable Image credit – Pinned from POPSUGAR, though the post has since been taken down

Unless we are faced with mortal danger, fear does little to serve us in this world. Fear triggers our fight or flight response, and when we’re in a work meeting and afraid, we can do neither, and thus we have to sit with the fear, doing nothing. This can make us sick.

The purpose of today’s journal prompt is to see what fears that aren’t serving you, and to help you begin to consider a plan to dissolve or sidestep that which you are afraid of.

Fear is a prompt not a block.
Writers as me all the time how they can overcome their worst fears. my prescription is always the same: Figure out what you’re most afraid of and write about that. Don’t stop until you’ve put it all on the page. When you use your fear as a prompt it loses its power to block

Bryan Hutchinson, Writer’s Doubt

December Offer

January is a time of starting fresh, of setting up good habits to begin the new you.

Through December, to get excited and ready for January, I’m offering a Free 1-hour session in addition to any monthly package or the 6-month package.

This means that if you sign up for either of the monthly packages, you’ll get 5 sessions instead of four. This includes any of the additional bonuses included in the package. For example, if you sign up for the 6-month package, you will get an additional week of partial manuscript reading and critique.

This offer is only if you sign up for my packages through the month of December.

Don’t miss out starting your 2020 new year write.

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