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Feeling Frustrated And Out Of Ideas? 5 Tips To Keep Writing

how to keep writing

Every writer has writer’s block now and then. Some writers pass through seemingly interminable stretches of it. Writing is like surfing: some days you catch the waves, other days you miss them. Some days there are no waves at all, other days you can ride them all the way to shore. The point is that you have to still show up every day with your board. You never know which days you’re going to catch the waves and which days you’re going to miss them. That’s the beauty of it. You have to show up to find out.

Instead of giving up and packing in, try these 5 tips that will help you keep writing:

Be Bold

Sometimes (often) writers stifle their own creativity because they fear criticism or failure or that nobody else will “get it”. Penning yourself in is no way to keep yourself motivated. Spend some time digging up and mapping out some of the most outrageous ideas you’ve ever come up with. Look at Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated, with huge stretches of the book written in the broken English accent of a Ukrainian guide. Genius. Or Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s short story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” about an angel fallen to earth whose bodily functions and lice are anything but heavenly.

Let it loose. Swing from the rafters. There’s the saying, “Dance as if no one was watching.” Well, write as if no one was reading. Be as bold, offensive, weird, daring, perverted and crazy as you can be. See what comes out once you’ve let the subconscious off the chain. Remember this advice from Albert Einstein: “For an idea that does not first seem insane, there is no hope.”

Get Out Of the House

Sometimes, sitting around staring out your window until you come up with an idea is just the thing you need to do. Other times, it’s best to head outside a bit and see what the rest of the world is up to. Head to a coffee shop, bar or bookstore. Go to a museum. Sit in the park. Eavesdrop on people’s conversations. Take public transportation. Observe people. Take a taxi. Talk to the taxi driver.

Make it an exercise when you’re receptive to outside stimulation and you’re an observer in the midst of the action. Bring a notebook or laptop and write down the things that strike you. It could be an interesting conversation you overheard. Or sensory stimulation such as crunching leaves, the biting cold air, the smell of roses in bloom. Choose a person and observe them physically. The way they’re dressed, the way they move, their age. Try to imagine who they are based on what you see. Use these experiences to prompt an idea.

Mold Your Environment To Induce Creativity

Though sojourns to the outside world can help spark lagging creativity, most writing is done in the confines of your home. So dedicate some time for carving a creative nook of your own in your home. Whether you live alone or with twenty roommates, whether you’re single or married with children, finding a space to call your own, no matter how humble, is the least you can do for yourself as a writer.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s post-Eat, Pray, Love writing took place in her attic where she collected eclectic things such as a knight’s armor, and had a window overlooking a garden for inspiration. Jane Austen wrote on what has got to be one of the world’s tiniest desks. Mark Twain took breaks from writing by playing pool on his private pool table. Nigella Lawson’s wall-wall bookshelves house her personal library of thousands of books – all within arm’s reach for research and inspiration. Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw and E.B. White were partial to windows overlooking greenery.

Make a space that’s all yours. If you’re the type who likes to decorate and embellish things, fill it with inspiring pieces of art, handwritten poems pasted to the walls, books that you love. If you need blank space and peace and quiet, go the Zen minimalist way and un-clutter space for you to sit and fill the emptiness with your ideas.

Sign Up For Reinforcement

Make sure your ideas don’t dry up by giving yourself a constant injection of creativity. Get on the mailing list for interesting blogs, podcasts and websites to keep your mind stimulated. Sometimes you just can’t pull the weight of endless creativity all on your own. There’s nothing wrong with reaching out and seeing what other brilliant minds are sharing with the world. Hopefully it will jog something in you that you weren’t able to access on your own.

Write Down a Lot of Ideas

Don’t sit and agonize over the perfect idea. Don’t wait for the thunderbolt. Sometimes it doesn’t come. Sometimes, you need to make it rain. Try any of these exercises:

  • Write down 50 ideas for stories or articles. They don’t have to be perfect or brilliant. Just write them down. You’re already being creative by just thinking about them. Choose the one you like best and use the momentum to build on it.
  • Freewrite. Do a freewriting session when you set a timer for 20 minutes and write down everything that comes to mind without stopping, erasing or spell-checking. See what came out of it. You can go another step further and choose your favorite thought from your first freewriting session and use it to start another one. This is called looping. You can do it ad infinitum.
  • Make a spider diagram. Write your main idea in the center of a piece of paper and then write ideas that spin off. You can connect related ideas with a line and start expanding beyond the original ideas, continuing to connect related ones with a line, like a spider’s web. Having a visual map of your ideas can help you organize your thoughts enough to start writing.

8 Techniques To Structure Your Writing Ideas

creativity warning for freelance writers

Whether you’re writing a novel, a textbook or a short article for your blog, proper structuring your ideas can certainly make your work go more smoothly. Different techniques will work best for different people, so why not try a few and see what is best for you? Perhaps the combination of the approaches mentioned below will help.

Brainstorming

If your mind is full of ideas, you need to get them down fast, so you don’t forget anything interesting! Get a large piece of paper and write down everything that comes to mind with regards to your writing project. Don’t worry about details or even about spelling. This is all about ideas. A single word or short phrase will do. Space the ideas out on your paper so you can add to them. This is a very useful tool if you’re working on a project with others as you can jot down your thoughts and ideas as you talk through the work.

Brainstorm bubbles

A brainstorm bubble diagram can be created during a brainstorming session or you can create one afterwards using the notes you gathered during brainstorming. When you have the concepts you want to write about, write down each idea and draw a bubble around it. This keeps each concept separate and it allows you to create the links between them. Draw lines between related concepts and you’ll find an order for creating your final piece of work. This really helps to create a flow for your work when you understand the relationship between the concepts you wish to discuss.

Bullet Points

When you’ve got a piece of paper full of ideas from a brainstorming session, or if you’ve got a pocket full of scraps of notes, get them all together and summarize them all into a list of bullet points. Seeing your ideas condensed like this can really help you to get organized. You can then rearrange your bullet points into the best order and have a great guideline for writing your article.

Flowcharts

Flowcharts are very useful for bringing your concepts together. Learning about the intricacies of flowcharts is time well invested. All written work has a flow and an order, and it can be very useful to create a chart to organize the flow of your document and will help you in the writing process. You’ll find plenty of guides to creating flow charts online and many books have been written on the subject too.

Intro, Body and Conclusion

You are probably familiar with this approach from writing school essays, but don’t dismiss it. It’s not just formal writing that can benefit from being divided up into these three segments. Think about which of your ideas fit best within each area and make a note of them. This process is a good natural progression from a bullet point list.

Word Web

Word webs are similar to brainstorm bubbles and are a popular method of gathering all your information in one place, so you can see the outline of your work at a glance. Write the concept name or main theme in the centre of a piece of paper. Your ideas and relevant points can then be written around the centre. It’s a good idea to write the most important points closer to the centre, this can give you a guideline later as to how much time to spend writing about each point.

Mind Maps

Mind maps are similar to word webs, but with more focus on visuals. Again, the main concept features in the centre of the map, with linked ideas radiating from the central point, attached the centre by a line. The use of colour, drawings and diagrams is common with mind maps, over time you’ll devise your own style of mind mapping. Search online for examples and you’ll find plenty of examples to inspire you.

Mass Collating

If you’re writing an article with information taken from many sources, it can be overwhelming. It’s easy to forget a point you’ve read if you’re looking at a lot of information. A good way to get organized is to take a piece of paper (or open a separate digital document) for each area of your article. As you read through your source materials, add notes to each page. This is in easy way to compartmentalize all your data. When it comes to writing your document, everything is in order for you.

Whichever techniques you use, structuring the ideas is always the key to a good piece of written work. It should make the whole process easier and help prevent the dreaded writer’s block!