We all have our ways of dealing with it, conquering it. A memory or anecdote from my past will often pop, unbidden, into my head begging to be embellished and written down. When this happens – problem solved. But, I don’t believe that there is truly any such thing as an unbidden memory. Something triggered it. So I search to find ways that will activate that trigger when I’m stuck.
Some writers make lists of nouns or questions. This doesn’t really work for me. My lists tend to devolve – to melt into something ludicrous. My list of nouns will suddenly all rhyme. When this happens I force myself to break the pattern.
Perhaps, all the words will begin with the letter ‘T’ or maybe they will describe only various means of conveyance. Or both:
I won’t go on, you get the idea.
Some writers drink to get those creative juices flowing. I’ve woken up more than once with my laptop’s low battery alarm beeping in my ear and keyboard imprints on my forehead. The screen filled with line after line of bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb. Yeah, not pretty.
Just as every artist shies away from a blank canvas, I think every writer has stared at a blank sheet of paper, or a white screen. Stared for hours, so we all know how well that works. When confronted with a blank canvas I could always put a daub of paint on it. The same is true with an empty sheet of paper or a white screen. Put something on it. The empty, can no longer taunt you if it is no longer empty. Put a mark down and now you control that support surface – it does not control you.
Writing prompts work best for me. I make a lot of my own up. I keep a note pad to scribble them down. I participate in the Speakeasy challenges, and recommend them to anyone even remotely interested in trying their hand at fiction. They have wonderful prompts there. I also enjoy trying to answer the ultimate question.
I have recently discovered a new method, a new means of inspiration. I like bus or train stations. Lunch counters work well too. Anyplace that is crowded, where cacophonous conversations echo when I enter. A short stroll will yield numerous snippets of nearby discussions. Sometimes I will pause to listen a bit longer, and can flesh out an idea that I didn’t even know I had.
I like to listen to how people say things almost as much as I like to listen to what they say – word choices, sentence structure, colloquial expressions, accents and local pronunciations, I want to understand these and know what people would say and how they would say it. I try to sprinkle these things sparingly into my stories to draw the reader in. Sometimes a simple turn of phrase or an overheard intonation can trigger a flood of stories that I have to write down, right now. The people I know well, family, coworkers, friends are rich with inspiration.
Lunch counters are good. They tend to be small, intimate yet impersonal, places where you cannot help but eavesdrop and it’s almost expected that you do. A place with a diverse clientele is the best place to mix it up and catch variety. This works especially well when you are traveling, not close to home where everyone sounds like you.
Take your notepad with you. Write down what you hear. Your fellow citizens can be a wealth of inspiration.