Friday, October 19, 2012

Refilling the Well

I haven't talked about writing for a couple of post, so let's get back to the important stuff.

The well. That thing within us from which draw inspiration. For some it's an aqueduct that once built effortlessly delivers fresh water at a constant pace. For others it take the from of a strip mine. A hole they bore into the earth with metal tools and explosives. A place where they rip out anything and everything that looks valuable to refine and shape later into useful material.

Sometimes that source of inspiration begins to run dry. We glance around the soot covered walls off are mine and see few glints of the precious metals that once lived there. If your a writer who works on their craft every day, it can be discouraging to look down at the paper with no ideas. I think new writers have this problem a lot, mainly because they haven't learned to document and cultivate their ideas. They haven't learned to listen to themselves. But to writers who have been at it a while, writers who have been through periods where they have so many ideas they don't have the time to write them all down. Writers who will fling themselves across a room and empty drawers onto the floor like a wild tornado to get down that great idea on paper. Writers who thought they would be bathing in the heavy downpour of ideas forever.

And then you find yourself staring down at  a blank page, pen tapping against your desk with nothing. Cue cliche tumble weed across desolate wasteland. Empty cupboards. River beds of dried, cracked mud. You struggle to come up with the simplest ideas and fail.



I think every writer has found themselves in this place at some point. And I think many of them find themselves here more often than they'd like to admit. Fear not writers of the world, there are easy ways to fix this.

1. Time Heals All Wounds

Wait. Yep that's it. Bask in the glory of my infinite wisdom. Do Nothing.

Some of the time our wells running dry is from simple exhaustion. I ran into this early this month with my sci-fi/tv project. I had been writing episode after episode and pulling long hours at work,. When it came time to think of another one I had nothing. I slammed my head against that wall for a couple of hours and nothing came out of it. I dug further into the mountain desperate to find another vein of gold only to find worthless rock.

Eventually I gave up, and took two days off from writing. On day three the ideas started flowing again. First a trickle, then a flood. The problem wasn't that the mine had run out of gold, it was that I was too tired to see it. My eyes had become weary and caked in dirt. What little flecks I did see I dismissed as not worth the effort. All I needed was little break to recharge.

2. Binge Consumption

This is one of my favorite methods for finding new ideas. Mostly because it involves avoiding work,.

I find I don't consume media in a regular fashion. I don't have my regular TV shows that I watch, and intersperse it with movies and books throughout the week. Instead I have lists of things I want to eventually watch or read. A whole list of movies recommended to me by other people, another list for books, yet another for comic books, video games and so on.

Then when i find myself in the mood for a particular something, let's say anime, I'll shotgun entire series in a row. I'll spend two weeks watching nothing but anime for my entertainment and get through entire series in a couple of days. I did this when I caught up with Doctor Who and finally saw Firefly a few years back.

I find it works well in the case of movies, because you get the entire story, concepts, arcs and all in a couple hours. In one weekend you can get through twenty different stories, all exhibiting different genres, characters and plot elements.

The best thing about binge consuming is you get really, really fat with ideas. All those times where you saw the writer take the concept in direction A, but you can take it direction B, stack up and mix in your brain. You rush back to your laptop eager to type because you have so many new ideas to get out there.

3. Friends


Yes, they are actually useful for something. I know, I know, I was surprised to. Turns out they aren't useless sacks of meat flesh that live only to get in your way.

Friends can be a fantastic source of ideas, not only in the conversations you have with them and the perspectives they bring to the table, but in simply helping you articulate your own writings and ideas. Friends who are also writers are great for this, as they know what questions to ask when you get stuck. Earlier this month I was talking to Chris of The Archatype about how I was running low on episode ideas. He knew to ask if I had fleshed out my plot lines enough, if there were side characters or sub plots that needed more screen time or fleshing out. While the conversation itself didn't spark any ideas, when the ideas came back and I was ready to write again it spawned ideas on what to focus on.

Yeah, I Thought The List Was Going To Be Longer

Those are some of the tricks I have when you find yourself running low on ideas. Also try jumping genres and types of stories. If you're a sci-fi guy try fantasy. Of if you like dark, brooding romances try comedies.

What are some of your tricks for getting ideas? Let me know in the comments below. I'm always looking out for new tips and tricks.

And be sure to check out our Around the Trunk podcast this week when talk Static and Dynamic Characters.

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