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I think it's fair to say that every writer feels the panic of not being able to think up new and original ideas. Being a writer is hard. There are so many writers constantly having new and brilliant ideas, and so it's understandable that we freak out sometimes when we’re struggling with the age-old curse that is writer’s block.
So, how do you get through these days of unproductive freaking out?
Try not to panic.
Easier said than done, I know, but panicking doesn’t achieve anything, it just makes you feel worse.
Remember that you’re not alone.
We all have days where we sit down to write and nothing comes to mind. Or we go for whole weeks without a single idea or drop of inspiration entering our heads. It happens to every single writer out there. You’re not the only one. Even the most successful of writers have days where they feel unproductive.
You don’t have to write every single day.
All writers, at some point in their lives, have been told that the key to success is to write every day, but this might actually be more harmful than it is good. Firstly, telling yourself to write every day puts a lot of pressure on you and this can cause stress. Secondly, we all have busy lives. Most of us have other jobs, studies, or commitments as well as our writing, so sometimes we simply don’t have time to write every single day and that is okay. Of course, when you love writing, it doesn’t feel like a chore but don’t be afraid to ignore the rule of writing every day and write when it suits you.
Writing exercises can be a useful way of getting your brain working and ideas flowing. Exercises I find useful are free writing, word prompts, and ekphrasis.
Free writing involves setting yourself a timer and writing non-stop for that length of time. Most people set themselves five minutes. The key is to not think about it too much, just write whatever comes into your head. A lot of it won't make sense but you might find some really good ideas in there.
Word prompts or opening sentences are a good way to get the creative ball rolling.
I find this website really useful as it has loads of exercises and prompts to help you get your writing going.
Ekphrasis derives from the Greek word for the verbal description of a visual work of art, either real or imagined. Get some artwork up on Google images, find an image that you think is interesting or intriguing, and brainstorm some ideas that spring to mind. A painting or photograph can tell many stories. Ekphrasis is a good exercise for exploring these different stories—a great way of sourcing inspiration.
Hopefully, these tips and tricks will help you get through those days when you feel like a new idea is a million miles away. We all suffer from writer’s block and the fear that we may never have a good idea again. Just remember that people have been telling stories for thousands of years and they will continue to do so for thousands more. Writing and storytelling will never be redundant, meaning there will always be new ideas for you to have and share.
Only you know what kind of a writer you are and how you work best. There will be days when creativity feels far away, but remember that it is just around the corner. Listen to advice from other writers but also have the confidence to ignore it when that feels like the right thing to do.