So, you finally have time to write – but you have no ideas. Your creativity has deserted you, the cursor blinks on an empty page, and you feel a little dead inside. What now? It’s time, fellow writers, for the brainstorm of the century.
1. Read a Book in a Different Genre
We all have favorites for a reason, but read outside of your favorite writing genres. If you write a lot of mysteries and crime thrillers, branch out into some science fiction, non-fiction, and even literary fiction. Your next clue may be waiting in a different section of the library.
2. Take a Walk
Your brain is just another part of your body, and getting a little exercise can help it function better. Sometimes ideas need time to percolate, and going on a walk might help you process ideas more easily, or lead to new, surprising ones.
3. Get on Pinterest
Storytelling relies on strong visuals, and the Internet is a great place to find new inspiration. Pinterest allows you to gather story-specific inspiration, or even character-specific inspiration, through separate boards. Whether you need to change-up a character or find the roots of a whole new tale, Pinterest can get the gears in your brain turning.
4. Be a Facebook Creep
We all joke about stalking our exes on social media, but catching up with old friends who don’t often appear on your timeline is actually a great way to spark ideas. Is someone going through some drama? Has a friend gotten a cool new job? It’s like the age-old eavesdropping trick, only digital.
5. Play 1+1
Make two piles of index cards. Write a character on each card in the first pile, and write a situation or event on each card in the second pile. Then shuffle each deck and pluck a card from each at random. For instance, you may pull a card from the character pile that says “Young gardener” and pair it with a situation card that says “Suspects neighbors are spies.”
6. Dig through Old Family Photos
We take pictures because we can’t remember absolutely everything that ever happened to us. Look through your old vacation shots, and pay attention to the backgrounds. Did you take a shot of another family mid-action? Is nature doing something weird? How would a stranger view this picture of your family?
7. Go to a Museum
This is a fun trick. It combines the physical exertion of walking with the visual stimulus of Pinterest. I personally like visiting art museums when I need ideas, and I spend time imagining the artist, the models, or the story depicted in the art itself. You can do the same thing in any kind of exhibit, though, so if you’re into space exploration, dinosaurs, or historical fire stations, go on an appropriate adventure!
8. Have a Brainstorm Party with Another Writer
One of the best things about NANOWRIMO is its support network. You work with other writers to accomplish your own goals. This doesn’t have to be a once-a-year thing. Make friends with other writers in your area, go out for coffee, and just discuss things that interest you. Is there a gap in your favorite niche genre you’ve been waiting for someone to fill? Fill it yourself! Talking out ideas and goals helps you develop plans and discover the story-sparkers you’ve had in your head all along.
9. Imagine Rewriting Your Favorite Story
All stories have elements in common, and many of our favorite books and films actually grew from older stories. Think of how many renditions of Cinderella’s story you’ve read. Find a story you really engaged with as a reader and pick it apart. Then re-spin it. Throw it into a new genre or setting, give it a new theme, and use the bare bones of the things you loved to build an entirely new plot.
Sometimes, you just need peace and quiet. Although there are many benefits to regular meditation habits in general, writers in particular have a lot to gain. Meditation is a mental exercise that trains your brain to focus and pay better attention. Meditating gives you the chance to hone ideas, recover stories from the backburner, and generally prepare for writing time.
There are, of course, many more ways to spark a new idea, but these are some concrete and reliable tricks you can always turn to in a pinch. Remember, the ideas are always there. You just have to get in touch.