Have you ever sat down to write for a few hours and instead sat for a few hours, congratulating yourself for productively blinking two thousand times?
So what do you do? My first recommendation is to hire a dinosaur to sit on you when you aren’t writing, but if you can’t do that, then the inferior option is to designate a few hours before you write simply for the purpose of contemplation. The chief symptom of writer’s block is (besides the nine hundred and ninety-nine other ones) is lack of planning. Never sit down, stand up, or croak unless you know what you’re going to write. More than that, don’t write until you have a clear picture in your head.
The bigger the project, the more time you should allot since lightbulbs take time to manufacture. Mariposa usually sets aside a few days for book ideas and structuring. And even when the primary outline is finished, she still mulls over individual scenes and conversations prior to opening her WIP.
- Keep a notebook and your brain handy, but if you can only have one, take the notebook; it’s much more reliable.
- Close your eyes. Shutting eyes is clinically proven to minimize distractions and teleport you into the realm of creativity.*
- Envision your book as vividly as possible. Share your characters’ struggles, smell the aroma of their environment, taste the feast before them (except if it’s poisoned—and it probably is if you’re a writer).
- Avoid the computer screen. Believe me, staring at a computer screen is more likely to zap you with brilliant idiocy than brilliant ideas. Screens will either make you feel obligated to write (if you don’t, you’ll feel like you cheated yourself and that will block ideas) or comment on the twenty-three new Facebook posts on why writers waste too much time on the internet.
- Listen to inspiring music (unless your book is depressing, then that might not be so helpful).
- Heed the advice of your colleagues, mentors, and dinosaurs (something Mariposa needs to do).
- Think of all alternative plots. You’d be surprised to find how many events that couldn’t possibly happen, could likely possibly happen. Even if your twists won’t work, they’ll help you to solidify your reasonings for why the other scenes must occur.
- Eat healthy and unhealthy foods (because a healthy diet equals a healthy mind, and an unhealthy diet equals a happy mind—both very important for writers).
- Repeat scenes in your head several times until you know them by heart. I particularly advise humans to visualize their scenes directly prior to writing them to protect you from incoming blank grenades.
- Ruminate upon plots when you’re unhappy, frustrated, busy, tired, or within twenty feet of people (unless you’re one of those rare extroverted writers).
- Expect to receive a bolt of ideas all at once. This will never happen in a million years. Two million maybe, but not a million.
- Use every idea. Your book can only hold a certain amount of genius.
- Even think about using Wi-Fi. I’m watching you, always watching.
- Die (that would be most inconvenient to your thinking processes).
- Worry about whether your ideas are terrible, because terrible ideas turn into bad ones and bad ones turn into average ones and average ones turn into decent ones and decent ones turn into good ones…and I don’t remember what I was originally writing about.
- Attempt to plan everything. Small inspirations like funny dialogue, minor characters, and the whole book often come in the middle of typing.
One drawback of thinking is that you may be tempted to convince yourself you’re being lazy just sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike. I mean, laying on the floor doesn’t seem like work, does it? Shouldn’t you be writing instead? Aren’t you wasting valuable time? Let me ask you this: Is it better to (figuratively) do nothing and return with a head full of ideas? Or is it better to type nothing and return with a head full of the same? In the long run, planning will save you hours of time you would have just used for blinking.
And if you still feel guilty, remember all the people who are busy working with their hands while their minds are idle. Isn’t that equally a waste of intelligence? Allot moments for brain-working and muscle-working, and you’ll have a great story.
For more tips on idea generation, here are a couple insightful articles on the subject:
*This is invalid information. Shutting eyes is not clinically proven to do anything except make you sleep.