For many of us, writing is a labor of love, but when writer's block hits like a sledgehammer, eking out a paragraph can be excruciating. There are also times when the writing is flowing well, but the character or plot is lacking something you can't quite put your finger on. If you're struggling with development or inspiration, here are six things you can do to get your wheels turning again.
1. Find out What Other People Consider to be "The Best"
When drafting a story and forming characters, the first thing I do is research "The Best" of … whatever I'm writing, whether it be genres, archetypes or plots. The Internet is teeming with avid fans in every niche you can imagine, which means you can garner insight to the established opinions of your target audience. You don't necessarily have to agree with these opinions, and that's okay. You're only looking for inspiration, and sometimes disagreeing with someone can be the very spark that sets fire to creativity.
2. Cruise Celebrity Photos and Clips
Maybe it's because I naturally do this in my free time as a huge movie nerd, but I find that researching the different roles and personas of actors and actresses makes it easier for me to formulate physical characteristics of my own characters. I find that it's easier to write a story with someone in mind, either as the original source (your next door neighbor) or the person who would portray the character perfectly in a performance (the actor/actress who would play the role of your next door neighbor).
3. Listen to Music
Music is great at evoking emotion and engaging our senses. Sometimes I become submerged in the technical details of a story, and I struggle with regaining that sense of magic and wonder of the creative process. As a music lover, it's easy for me to pair a story with a type of music that creates a similar mood or sets a similar scene. Sometimes, by simply tuning into the right Pandora station, I can return to the intended essence of the story.
4. Imagine your Story in Different Mediums
I often undertake this exercise when I am visualizing a scene that relies heavily on visual cues and descriptions. I often imagine my story adapted to a graphic novel because the frames of the medium capture the movement, tension and transitions in a colorful way. Storytelling is a dynamic process, and finding the right words is often a matter of imagining a scene clearly. Obviously, the type of medium you choose will depend upon the tone and nature of your story.
5. Return to the Blank Page
If your mind is drawing a blank, open up a notebook and turn to a blank page. Start with the single-most element in your mind's eye. It could be an emotion, a color, a setting, a character, a conflict, or even a single word. Take this element and begin to expound upon it. Simply let your imagination take hold; explore and experiment with words and descriptions. You may or may not use the material in your story, but it could open a door that leads to a whole new level of your vision.
Sometimes, your imagination might be pushing you to represent something visually. Even if you're a terrible artist, go with it. You might look back on the sketch later and see what you were trying to grasp. As writers, sometimes a shadow of an idea can lead to bigger possibilities than a defined vision.
6. Read a Short Story
While I'm writing, I tend to become entrenched in my imagination and the fictional world of my creations. I rarely want to spend the time or energy engaging in someone else's long-winded vision, so I rarely read novels during the writing process. However, to be a truly great writer, we must first be great readers. Taking the time to search the Internet for short stories – of any kind – can often lead to inspiration. Reading is also a source of joy and exercise of the imagination for many, which can be relaxing and comforting during a rough patch.
Guest post by Nadia Jones, a full-time writer who is passionate about education. Most recently, she helped compile an online college catalogue for prospective students. In her free time, Nadia writes fiction and watches 90s sitcoms. She welcomes your comments and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.