Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel April 7, 2012 - 3:34pm

Long time listener, first time caller,
I've run into an idea drought and would like some creative ways to break the cycle. I have no shortage of words, just have no clue what to write about. Nothing really stands out that I really want to write. I've been filling my time rewriting some older stories, but they need a break and now I'm kind of stuck.
I've been focusing a lot on my personal life and getting things in order, but I really love writing and don't want to have an extended period of no writing. I've thought about using some prompts that I've seen on other sites, but for some reason it feels a little cheap. Please help.
Sincerely,
Stuck

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like April 7, 2012 - 3:46pm

I'll help, but I need some info --

What kind of stuff do you usually write?

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts April 7, 2012 - 3:55pm

I was going to make a thread based around Ray Bradbury's Zen and the Art of Writing where he has this essay on "how to keep and feed a muse." The basic idea is to fill your head with ideas, experiences, books and poems, until it becomes so full that you have to spill it out on the page. I personally get pretty frustrated with writing quickly, I get easily stuck doing the same thing or working half-formed ideas, so I keep my own little folder full of different kinds of prompts suited just for me. Some ideas I use:

Verses of poems and songs I like a lot

photos that I've saved for story idea generation

A list of things I love/hate/fear, very abstract and senseless things

Character and Scenery sketches

Reading some short stories then taking the gun out of that crime story, or the monster out of that horror story, and rewriting it my own way

Asking myself a litst of strange questions

Bob Pastorella was talking about the technique he uses where he writes a long letter to himself, I think about what he's writing lately and he keeps asking himself questions based on that (maybe he can chime in and correct me on this)

Also, might be worth looking into the 3 AM Epiphany, where their prompts are more technique based and have not much regarding plot, those are interesting and challenging to do.

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like April 7, 2012 - 3:57pm

Or you could just listen to Renfield.

Personally, I don't write unless I want to.  In other words, if I don't want to, I don't write.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. April 7, 2012 - 4:05pm

Sent you an idea.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs April 7, 2012 - 4:10pm
Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts April 7, 2012 - 4:10pm

if I don't want to, I don't write.

 

I think that is a good rule. It also allows you time to read and do actual real life things and fill your head with ideas. Refueling. Sometimes I write when I don't want to, actually most of the time I don't want to write, more commonly I feel I should or have to. But I don't want to dislike my stuff after I write it, so I keep stuff around to inspire me and keep me focused. Maybe I'm just neurotic though?

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel April 7, 2012 - 4:12pm

@ J.Y. I don't have a genre that I write in. To be honest I couldn't place myself if I wanted to. I like the idea of letting others place me where they want. With that said, I think I write in the sci-fi, mystery, horror, psych fields.

@ Renfield, I really like those ideas. Thanks for feeding the fire.

PandaMask's picture
PandaMask from Los Angeles is reading More Than Human April 7, 2012 - 4:17pm

Had The Rough House prompts up. Either that or go into Beyond.

bjlangley's picture
bjlangley from Cambridgeshire, UK is reading C by Tom McCarthy April 7, 2012 - 5:08pm

I don't have enough time to write all that I want to write at the moment, so I end up scrawling things down in a notebook, stuff I intend to write once the next piece is out of the way. I think that helps, always having another story to come back to - of course, that's not much help right now. How about seeking inspiration from news stories? Or deliberately listening in to people's conversations to see if you hear something that creates a spark..?

 

Or just look up something out of copyright from the 19th Century and stick the undead in it...

 

EDIT

 

Also, a writing tutor once posed the question "and then who walks in the door?" Take a scene, then throw an extra character in there to see how they mix it up. it can turn an everyday situation into something worth writing about.

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel April 7, 2012 - 6:09pm

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Haha. Awesome. Not really, but the idea was sound. Thanks bjlangley

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig April 7, 2012 - 10:21pm

I actually like those little prompt books you can buy, like The Writer's Book Of Matches. I don't always get great stuff out of the prompts, but it gives me a good starting point to just write. I am also an "I don't write if I don't want to" person, but sometimes I want to and I can't pull anything out of my head to start from.

Fritz's picture
Fritz April 7, 2012 - 10:28pm

I posted this somewhere else - thought I'd repeat here.  Tangential thinking is where it's at.

 

I do this when starting a new story - it works, serious...

1.  Free-write for 10 minutes or so (you can set a specific time if you're AR) - Tangential thinking - no pressure

2.  Do that every day for 5 days (M-F)

3.  Use the w/e to look them over - pick one that looks the most promising.

4.  write the damn story

5. If you're still not feeling it - then take the 5 (you don't have to use them all) - and develop a single completed scene to better realize what your subconsious was trying to say.

6. Write the damn story.

Just throwing ideas out there.

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like April 7, 2012 - 11:19pm

But I don't want to dislike my stuff after I write it

Yeah, I'm always more pleased with my stuff when I can't help but write it.  I'm not expecting to become a pro novelist anytime soon, so I don't really sweat if I'm not writing.

That said, if someone was going to pay me to write, I might want to more.

Grigori Black's picture
Grigori Black from US is reading Radium Girls by Amanda Gowin April 7, 2012 - 11:33pm

@Renfield

That's a great book. I wind up going back to it every time I have a dry spell in my writing. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone looking for something beyond flash prompts. 

Personally, the flash prompts work well because it gets me outside of my 'bubble' of writing. The random stuff sometimes feels cheap, but it generates other ideas. At leas that's what it does for me. Heh. 

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. April 8, 2012 - 1:30am

Write about your life and disguise it as fiction.  Write things as you wish they would have happened rather than how they did.

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly April 8, 2012 - 1:43am

^^^That

 

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner April 8, 2012 - 3:15am

^^ and that

Americantypo's picture
Americantypo from Philadelphia is reading The Bone Clocks April 8, 2012 - 8:04am

Do other things for an hour. Whenever I hit a wall I go to the gym or clean the house. It clears my head and 99% of the time a new idea just comes up on it's own. If nothing comes, then you at least did something productive.

Bill Tucker's picture
Bill Tucker from Austin, Texas is reading Grimm's Fairy Tales (1st Edition) April 8, 2012 - 3:39pm

The one thing thats been helpful to me, and has been mentioned here, is "feeding your internal artist". If you find yourself stuck, do things outside of writing that you enjoy. It can as easy as taking a walk in the park, going to a museum. Basically, surround yourself with life, keep youself open to the world around you and the ideas will flow.

Yes, I realize this sounds like new age horseshit, it genuinely works.

Also, the free writing mentioned above is also extremely helpful. Every day, do three pages of nonstop writing. No matter what comes out, just keep your pen going. Don't stop. Sooner or later, ideas will fall out.

Good luck!

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers April 8, 2012 - 3:51pm

Wrote about this on my blog a couple of months ago. The second deals with outline, but I mention David Morrell's method when he gets an idea, try it, it really works!

 

http://bobpastorella.com/2012/02/14/writerdrome-the-writers-block/

 

http://bobpastorella.com/2012/03/20/writerdrome-walk-the-line-chalk-line...

 

As for actual ideas, they are out there, you're just looking too hard, if that makes sense. 

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. April 8, 2012 - 3:57pm

I gave him the best idea ever.  Now it's just up to him to write it.

Cassandra L.'s picture
Cassandra L. from Melbourne is reading A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole April 8, 2012 - 5:25pm

On a similar vein to @Fritz Wolfe's reply, I've done a short-story-a-day challenge before which I found to be amazing (although more like flash fiction-a-day, most of the time). 

Find a random-word generator and generate a new word at the same time every day. You have 24 hours to write something - ANYTHING - from that word. Do that every day for a month religiously. You will write some shit, but you will also write things that will surprise and astound you too. 

 

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel April 8, 2012 - 7:22pm

Bought the book, gonna write Howie's story, and see what happens. I think once I get back from Europe my head may be back into the business.

All really good ideas. Thanks all who contributed. Except Danny, everything Danny says is rubbish. lol

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. April 9, 2012 - 2:03am

On second thought, Joe.  Write from a woman's perspective.  It should take you about 50 years to figure out how women think.

wickedvoodoo's picture
wickedvoodoo from Mansfield, England is reading stuff. April 9, 2012 - 3:21am

Nice comeback there, Danny boy. Dum dum tssh.

My only contribution to the discussion is to recommend mixing things up entirely from your norm. If you are a horror kind of guy, but are dry for ideas, then have a crack at something funny instead, or something sci-fi maybe. Fuck it, try and write something romantic. Your brain may just need a change of environment for a little while.

Grigori Black's picture
Grigori Black from US is reading Radium Girls by Amanda Gowin April 9, 2012 - 4:40am

Utah's picture
Moderator
Utah from Fort Worth, TX is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry April 9, 2012 - 5:08am

Man, I was going to throw in my two cents, Diaz, but everybody already did.  There's some good advice here.  Were I you, I'd probably go with what Fritz said, because I've found similar things to work for me as well.  But I also use the Zen in the Art stuff by Bradbury as well.  Over time it's given be a pretty decent backlog of short stories to work through.

And if you want to try something just a bit different, get one of the how-to books by Natalie Goldberg and apply what she says.  That stuff is relatively painless, but it produces a lot of material.

Fritz's picture
Fritz April 9, 2012 - 5:14pm

Utah - just saw the title below name. Cool freakin shitola there

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz April 9, 2012 - 5:16pm

Giant piles of blow.

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz April 9, 2012 - 5:17pm

@Fritz: You need to have your eyes checked then.

Utah's picture
Moderator
Utah from Fort Worth, TX is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry April 9, 2012 - 7:42pm

Chester does not think my title is cool.  That is because Chester's avatar is a penis with teeth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or one of the Furies.

Fritz's picture
Fritz April 9, 2012 - 8:19pm

Hey - I always thought chester's avatar was a flip-flop / sandal thing with a mouth on it - you know, 'foot in mouth' reference and all that.  Always like the competition orange background though...

I do have issues with flip-flop guys though, but that is a whole different ball of wax. 

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz April 9, 2012 - 8:52pm

Haahaa. I thought Fritz was talking about the DOTP badge. 

I love your avatar Utah. It reminds me of Skullfuckmas.

Well, I am a flip-flop guy figuratively speaking. And yes, I do wear flip-flops in the summer when it is smoking hot--or as sandals around the house when socks begin to cloy.

My avatar is bound to get me in trouble at some point. Litigation is inevitable. Cease and desist.

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. April 10, 2012 - 7:08pm

Joe, have sex with lots and lots of men and then write about it.  That will inspire you.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts April 11, 2012 - 3:30am

Then you just end up writing Allen Ginsberg style butthole poetry.

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel April 11, 2012 - 9:14am

Just signed up for the Jack K class. Should give me some real motivation to get my ass in gear. And I did buy the book.

Utah's picture
Moderator
Utah from Fort Worth, TX is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry April 11, 2012 - 9:44am

Damn, Diaz, you're a class-takin mofo.  How did you like that first one?

And I am all about this Ketchum class.  And since I am getting ready for my wife to have a baby and we're buying a house, I hope Jack comes back relatively soon, cuz I'm gonna have to catch him on the flip side.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters April 11, 2012 - 9:49am

"cuz I'm gonna have to catch him on the flip side."

I've never been so ashamed of you. 

That could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you want to look at it.  Cuz Ima leave it open like that, yo.

 

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel April 11, 2012 - 9:50am

The class was awesome. I got some really great information. I just wish there was more daily homework. I know many who take the classes don't have the time I do, but an optional homework would have been nice to really sink the material in. I can say I got the idea, but unless you practice it over and over it becomes a blur. At least to me.

I'm using my severance from the Navy to get me as much information as possible before I start school. Better get it in now before I have no time at all.

Utah's picture
Moderator
Utah from Fort Worth, TX is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry April 11, 2012 - 9:54am

Why does that phrasing make you ashamed of me?  You realize it's only a modified line from one of the greatest movies ever made?

Utah's picture
Moderator
Utah from Fort Worth, TX is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry April 11, 2012 - 9:55am

Who was it you took, Diaz?

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters April 11, 2012 - 9:55am

Now I'm ashamed, and unimpressed. 

Utah's picture
Moderator
Utah from Fort Worth, TX is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry April 11, 2012 - 9:57am

You are a communist.  I hope you catch a head cold.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters April 11, 2012 - 9:59am

I do have allergies.  Does that make you feel better?

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel April 11, 2012 - 10:00am

Mrs. Vitello's class. It opened my eyes significantly.

I was writing and like " yeah, this is awesome" and then Suzy said, " hey try this and this" and I just sat there thinking, holy fuck. I know nothing.

Made me realize that writing is a game of dedication and experience. There is no right or wrong way, but there is a right and wrong way.

Utah's picture
Moderator
Utah from Fort Worth, TX is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry April 11, 2012 - 10:01am

Ah.  Allergies.  I keep wanting to say that allergies are just a sign of the devolution of humans.  But my step-daughter has severe allergies and like a 180 iq.  So I don't know if my hypothesis would bear up under any real scrutiny.

Grigori Black's picture
Grigori Black from US is reading Radium Girls by Amanda Gowin April 11, 2012 - 10:26am

Alrighty then, I should take my NKA* status as a hunter/gatherer more seriously then?

 

(No Known Allergies)

Utah's picture
Moderator
Utah from Fort Worth, TX is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry April 11, 2012 - 10:41am

Maybe so. 

Then again, it could just mean that you weren't vaccinated using media that are known common allergens, so your body doesn't associate any of those things with sickness.

Hard to tell.

Grigori Black's picture
Grigori Black from US is reading Radium Girls by Amanda Gowin April 11, 2012 - 10:43am

I've been exposed to so many random things, it's a wonder I'm not dead yet. <*checks pulse*> Yep, still living. I think. 

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters April 11, 2012 - 10:52am

I am allergic to 3 out of the 4 major antibiotic groups. 

But I am not allergic to poison ivy.