Since finishing my first novel, The Pink Cage, 15 months ago, the fields of my imagination have been a bit fallow. I’m not a very prolific writer and the next Big Idea is slow is coming. But I’ve still been scratching away in my notebook, keeping my imagination active, keeping the fields tilled to facilitate growth. And this has borne some fruit in the form of two short stories, one of which was published in an anthology called From the Well.
There’s a simple message to all this. The cure for writer’s block is to write your way around it. As Pablo Picasso says, ‘When inspiration comes, let it find you working.’ And we all know how prolific he was. Even if you think what you’re writing is rubbish, write it anyway. Among the trash, a few gems might emerge.
There are a few things you can do to keep your imagination stimulated.
Use your notebook. As you go out and about, keep a notebook close by and make notes about what you can see and hear. At the very least, you’ll be honing your observation skills. And a stray comment or a funny incident might trigger a story. Maeve Binchy is the doyenne of this. She learned to lipread so she could eavesdrop on conversations undetected!
What’s on your mind? Is your mind full of wacky, wonderful thoughts and wordplays? Is there a character you think of that won’t go away? You mightn’t attach much importance to these, but they could hold the key to your next story, especially if you find you can’t dislodge the thoughts. Writing these thoughts down keeps you in touch with what’s happening on your mind and helps you catch ideas while they’re fresh?
Exercises. If you’re a structured type of person, exercises might be useful. Creative writing handbooks are stuffed with exercises to get you going. Doing exercises will keep your brain oiled and sharpen your technique. And they can help you tap into a wellspring of ideas.
Set targets. Maybe you’re driven by outside deadlines. If that’s you, set a target of words to write or time to spend writing each day. Or pick a competition or journal with a submission date and use that to spur you on.
Writing every day, regardless of whether ideas are there or not, is what makes you a writer. If you really feel you’re wasting your time, remember that no word is wasted. They’re all bringing you to that promised land of a brilliant idea that will bring you creative fulfilment and win you legions of fans.