Vikki Thompson is currently a student on Writing A Novel with Tim Lott. She blogs at The View Outside.
Where The Ideas Are And How To Get Them
Leonard Bernstein said "Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time."
When a writer picks up a pen, or puts their finger to the keyboard, they are starting because they have an idea, a seed. It's possibly been growing in their mind for weeks, often years. But what if you're out of ideas? What if the dreaded writers' block has reared its paralysing head and sent you into a major meltdown? We all have those moments, don't we, when we go completely blank?
When I'm feeling uninspired I start off by looking in one of the following places:
Newspapers & Magazines: Flick through the pages and pick out interesting stories. Good fiction often comes from fact. Make up your own endings. Read headlines and problem pages.
Films and TV Shows: Borrow the storyline from a film you've seen recently. Apply the "What if?" question to anything and everything you watch.
Dreams... and Nightmares: Many a successful writer has been inspired by one of their dreams. Always write them down.
Use a Fairytale: Do a modern-day version of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, or how about Pinocchio?
Photographs & Pictures: Take your camera with you everywhere. Search the Internet for something that catches your eye or go to an art gallery and look at paintings.
Songs & Song Titles: Most songs tell a story. I still can't figure out why no one has turned The Script's The Man Who Can't Be Moved into a rom-com.
Writing Prompts: There are dozens of books on the market plus many more websites that provide the uninspired writer with prompts to write about. A 15-minute session writing about the colour of your bedroom when you were a child could turn into your next novel.
People-Watching: Go to a park or café with your notebook, write down snippets of conversations, descriptions of people.
Books: Reading is a necessity. Be inspired by a sentence by Delillo, or a piece of dialogue written by Dickens. Read poetry.
Real Life - Your Life: Each and every one of us has a story to tell. Use aspects of your own life, your mother's life, Auntie Joan's life, to inspire your story. As writers, we need to see things that others don't, or in a way others don't. Be curious and always carry a notebook.
Jack London said "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." Perhaps a little dramatic, but I get his point. Ideas, and hence stories, are all around us, waiting to be told. You just need to know where to look.
For more useful tips on how to fight writer's block, visit our News and Features section.