How to Keep Your Idea Bulb Turned On

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The age-old literary debate: is Writer’s Block a myth or the real deal? Sorry, I don’t have any peer-reviewed scientific research to back up anything I’m about to write, but I have an English degree, not a Bachelor of Science (yet). I’m in the clear. For now.

Is Writer’s Block a myth? Certainly not. Sometimes our ideas and our motivation to follow through with them don’t correlate when we want them to.When we have an idea and we’re motivated to carry it out (i.e., after we’ve had over half of our venti iced latte while sitting outside Starbucks), we’re good to go. What can you do to keep your ideas and your drive to turn them into tangible products working hand-in-hand? Here are a few – haha – ideas.

Keep an idea book with you. 

Spiral notebook, pack of Sticky Notes, iPad – as long as it fits in your bag and gives you space to scribble down an idea, it’s good enough for your creative brain. It may be creative, but creativity often comes in spontaneous spurts. You might have a day or even a week where ideas flow nonstop, and then a few days or a week where nothing seems to come to you at all. When the ideas keep coming, you can’t just sit at home and type them all out at once. Some get their best ideas while running, showering or maybe even grocery shopping (if you’re a nutrition writer like me). If you’re out and about and you get an idea for a character/story/novel/song/poem/article/memoir, have something you can use to make note of it so you don’t forget. And who knows – that one idea may lead to a dozen others, which you can proceed to write down underneath the first.

Never stop reading.

How often do you spend reading? As often as you spend writing? Even though you can’t plagiarize someone else’s idea in your own writing (even copying an idea is illegal, not just specific words or phrases someone else already wrote), reading can help spark a new idea you might not have thought of if you hadn’t been reading that book or article. I try to read as often as I can – if I don’t have time to read another Jodi Picoult novel, I’ll take a 15-minute study break and read an article or two online just to keep my brain alive. Read what you like and do it as much as you can: you’ll be surprised how much it can help you out when you feel like every idea you’ve ever thought of has already been thought of before.

Learn to be brave.

Whether you’re hesitant about a new idea or you’re not sure you’re ready to go out and do field research for a story, project or school assignment, put that fear of the unknown behind you. This is something I’m trying to work on as well. (I didn’t want to be on my school paper in high school because I hated the idea of interviewing people. Ironic?) Thinking about the probable success of an idea or current project is terrifying, I know. As successful as we strive to be, the idea of actually getting there can actually hold us back from following through with what our minds don’t want us to let go of. Stifle that voice that keeps telling you it’s not good enough, it won’t ever make it in the industry, no one will like it. Do YOU like it? Then stick with it. Even if it never “makes it” anywhere, it’s still something you created. Be proud of it.

Be patient. Sometimes you need a long walk, a different project or a good night’s sleep to recharge your creative batteries. It doesn’t do  anyone much good, unless you’re in the middle of a Wrimo (and if you don’t know what that is, try not to tempt yourself to find out) to keep trying when your head literally isn’t in it. Walk away; come back later. You might walk outside to take the garbage out, see something on your way to the dumpster and BOOM – you’re ready to get going again. You really never know.

It’s what we don’t know that motivates us to do what we can to find out – even if it’s fictional. No one knows what happens when the world ends, so writers like to make it up. If that’s your thing, go for it! It’s certainly better than nothing.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

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