Few things are as disappointing as sitting down to write and finding that you have nothing to say. Maybe you have an idea of what to write but you just can’t get the words to come out right. Maybe you’re looking for fresh inspiration. Whatever your situation, here are five ways to kick start your muse.
1.) Create a Playlist
This is my go-to tactic to get in the mood. Some people have favorite bands who inspire the imagination. My favorites are usually Pink Floyd, Vast, Radiohead and (appropriately) Muse. Another tactic is to use specific songs that fit the atmosphere or tone of what you’re writing. For example, my ghost story set in Louisiana had me listening to “House of the Rising Sun” and “Hotel California” on repeat.
Want something without lyrics that you can use for a specific scene? Go on YouTube or Google “D&D background music” to find the sounds of taverns, towns, chases or whatever fits the scene. (Movie soundtracks are great for this too.)
2.) Pick a Writing Prompt
Ok, but what if you’re completely out of ideas with no idea where to start? Try looking up some writing prompts. Set a timer and force yourself to free write for an hour to whatever the prompt is, and see what spills out. Here’s some sites to get you started:
- Writer Igniter – hit shuffle and write!
- Writer’s Digest – new prompts weekly
- Writing Prompts that Don’t Suck – mileage may vary, but hey, there are 700 of them. Pick a number and hit search to see what you get!
There are tons of these out there, so if that doesn’t do it for you, get over to Google and do some digging.
3.) Get to Know Your Characters
A big cause of writer’s block is that you’re dealing with characters you don’t know very well. If you know who your characters are – their wants and needs, how they’ll react when you put them in a dire situation – then you can work on giving them conflicts that will enhance the story and build towards their arcs.
Great! So how do I get to know someone who doesn’t exist, Liz? Well, short answer: personality quizzes. (Don’t laugh.) Try some of these and fill them out like you’re answering for a particular character. The quizzes themselves might be dumb, but it’ll rewire your brain to start thinking like them, and treating them like a real person.
Want a deep dive that’s more than just the usual Myer’s Briggs? Check out the Enneagram personality test. I did a cursory search for that link but there are a few of these sites out there that can go pretty in-depth. Even better, some sites explore how the types interact with one another, so you can see how your characters might get along – or not. Try it out and see what insights it unearths.
4.) Transcribe Passages from Published Works
This is more for when I know what I want to say but the words aren’t coming out in the right order. If I’m having trouble just forming sentences, I’ll pull out a favorite book and skip to a scene I like, or one whose voice or word choice I envy. Then I’ll physically type or write out the passage word for word. Not just read it, but actually transcribe it.
There’s something about the act of manually putting one word in front of the other that reminds me what writing is supposed to feel like, and what a complete sentence looks like. It sounds dumb, but honest to god, it really helps to mimic polished writing until I can take the training wheels off and go wobbling off on my own again.
5.) Don’t Write
This sounds counter-productive, but sometimes the best way to write is to not write. Has it been a long day/week and you’re completely spent? Have you slept well lately? How are are your eating habits? When was the last time you got out in the sunshine? If you’re not taking care of yourself, then writing is probably going to be a struggle for you. Well, more than usual.
Make sure you take time for some self-care. Turn off social media, go take a walk and let your mind wander. Go get bored. Boredom is a great way to break writer’s block, but you can’t get bored if you’re on Twitter all night or binge-watching Netflix. You’d be surprised what comes to you when you’re able to decompress and let your mind wander.
Anyway, those are my go-to solutions for writer’s block. Did I miss any of your favorites? Got a writing prompt site that’s the best thing since shredded cheese? Post it in the comments and help each other out! Until next time, happy writing!