Imagine yourself with a clean sheet of paper in front of you. You have to write a short story about something, but no matter how long you stare at that crisp white piece of paper you have nothing. Zip. Ziltch. Not one word comes to mind. What do you do? How do you get over the initial panic that comes with every new moment that a story won’t come to mind? You could throw your computer out the window and swear off writing, or maybe just get comfortable with yourself and do some brainstorming.
This morning, I met with several fellow writers and we talked about brainstorming and the techniques we each use to get or mojo flowing. It was interesting that each of the five people had their own unique way to brainstorm. Therefore, you too should look at each of these as an idea for you to mull over and in the end come up with a formula that works for you.
- Look for intense moments from your life (or someone else’s): This can be a tough one depending on the situation. Some events in life are better left in the past, but some of them can make for a great scene, short story, or book.
- Ask questions: Get out a sheet of paper and a pencil. I like pencils because they seem to be more connected with the paper. Plus, pens are too permanent – you can erase pencil. Getting back to your paper…. When a question pops into your mind write it down. Don’t take the time to answer it, yet. Keep writing them down until your mind feels empty of them. Now, go back and answer them.
- Play with your attractions: What sort of things attract you? Do you love wine, bookstores, plants, hiking, rock climbing, or knitting? Any one of these are potential subjects.
- Use pre-printed idea cards: Let’s say you are listening to the news and you hear a n odd story that you think would be interesting to write about. Jot it down on a note pad or an index card. These will become your idea cards.
- Online themes: there are plenty of websites and social media that provide writing prompts, contests, and games. Writers Digest, Penguin Random House, and Creative Writing Prompts are just a few that I use when I’m stuck.
- Word dumps: sit down and just write nonsense words. Keep writing them until you feel the flood gates open. Put them on index cards. This turns your word dumps into idea cards.
One of the keys to be successful in these exercises is to stay away from your computer. Handwritten words are powerful. There is a connection between your hand and your brain that isn’t present between the computer and your brain. According to an article in Time, “… creative people have greater connectivity between these brain networks that tend to work in opposition in most people. This messiness of creativity at the neurological level mirrors its real-life complexity.”
Creative minds like a little bit of disorganization. Handwriting is one way to provide it. Scribbling up the margins, scratching out mistakes, flipping the page over to write upside-down all contribute to a wonderfully, messy, creative mind. Next time you’re stumped for words, grab a piece of paper, napkin, or the palm of your hand and start writing. Your mind will do the rest.