Nathan Bransford, Author

Monday, August 17, 2015

Creativity tip: When you need inspiration, figure out what you need to know

I'm on record saying writer's block doesn't exist.

When I say that, I'm not saying that you won't experience a feeling of idea-lessness or that life circumstances will never get in the way of your writing. Lots of people go through stretches where it is legitimately impossible to write.

What I mean is that most commonly, that feeling of writer's block is just a feeling that you can actually power through.

When you head down that path, the absolute most helpful thing to do is to figure out the problem. Figure out why you can't think of an idea. What is it that you're trying to solve in the book?

Here's what I mean. I'm at a stage in writing my new novel where I legitimately don't know what's going to happen next. And I got stuck. I seriously couldn't think of what to write next. But rather than stare at the blinking cursor of doom, I started creating structure around the problem.

I know that the main character is currently at Point A, and eventually she'll need to get to Point B. So I started cataloguing some of the things that need to happen before Point B. Then I broke it up still further into a series of chapters. I started writing out some of the feelings I want her to experience before Point B, plotting out the ups and downs. I wrote down some of the bigger things I hadn't yet tackled in the narrative but wanted to, such as showing something happening in the broader world.

And I figured out the problem. I need to set a new plot line in motion, and I needed to do more work to get a sense of where she's going before I figure out the next step.

I still don't know precisely is going to happen, but this is the first step toward being unstuck.

Sometimes it doesn't work to confront a lack of ideas head on. It can be far more effective to create some structure around it, figure out what you need to figure out, and then power on through.

Art: Sebastian Hyller by Franz Joseph Winter


Kaitlyn Terrey said...

Thank you for your insight! I completely agree. I've been forcing myself to write a poem a day, for most of the summer, and I've ended up turning out some good material. There is absolutely a way to push through a so-called "Writer's Block."

JeffO said...

I've done some similar things when I've been stuck. I think anything that changes our point of view on our writing/story is useful in becoming unstuck.

John Stanton said...

Writer's block is only writer's block if you let it stop you. If you power through it and keep pushing, it's just a slow writing day.

Abby said...

I've just discovered the same thing with my own WIP. For me the issue was more that I didn't understand the characters as well as I thought I did, and I got to a point where I had to buckle down and figure out exactly what made them tick. This, in turn, helped me figure out how they'd all interact in a given situation. So helpful. Thanks for sharing your own experience!

Dawn Simon said...

When I get stuck, it often helps me to go back to my outline. Sometimes it's helpful to look at my one-page synopsis or write a one-page synopsis to remind myself of the bigger picture, of what initially got me rolling. Thank you for sharing about your process!

Jess Elaine said...

I had this same issue!

JS Johnson said...

Holy cow. I literally said almost the same thing a couple of weeks ago - August 5th post.
Either great minds think alike, Mr. Bransford, or you're a kook. :)

Adventures in YA Publishing said...

Love this idea of structuring around a comment. It's proactive (no writer can sit around waiting for inspiration to strike) and pushes the writer to analyze the narrative and build a solution that addresses the story's needs and logically build a series of events that will carry the narrative where it needs to go.

Honestly, if we can't consider this process inspiration, then I don't know what is.

--Sam Taylor, AYAP Intern

Helen said...

Great post! Nice tool for ideas organization is Evernote. It helps to save posts that prompt you some ideas and many other features! I use it very often. Inspiration itself I take from different posts and books, sometimes even the smallest sentence can give the whole idea.

Berry said...

Inspiration is my biggest problem. Either I have too much of it and have no time to write down all my ideas, or there is none of it and I have to invent topic with creak)

Nanette said...

Whatever works to get those words onto that page is the "write" way. You sound like a "seat of your pants" writer -- a "pantser". I've written both ways -- sometimes as a "pantser", sometimes as a "plotter", and sometimes as both. It depends on what kind of writing I'm doing.
Your insight here was very helpful, Nathan. It made me think. Thank you.

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