Blank Slate Malady: You know that feeling…when you finish a story and your mind is completely blank and you panic and wonder if you’ll ever have another story idea again? insert melodramatic violin music here
Stuck-Gate Syndrome: You have ideas…perhaps LOTS of ideas, but none of them are sticking and you can’t answer even basic questions like, “Why IS the antagonist after my MC?” insert hair pulling mode here
One of the cures for Blank Slate Malady is to do something that scares you and push through it. Doesn’t have to be anything crazy like jumping out of an airplane. It can be something as simple as taking your laptop to a coffee shop, if like me, that’s something you want to do that scares you. I experienced a lovely dose of fear the last time I ventured out into the woods. It’s not like I’ve never been in the woods before. Heck, I grew up beside them! There was just something about being alone in a foreign state and in the mountains where there are bears (little calm black bears, but still!) that got me thinking. And apparently a lot. Because you see, you have ideas. You just need to scare them out by doing something that scares you more than writing a story that might potentially “fail.” (And nothing you finish is a failure by the way. Because SO many more people start stuff and never finish then start stuff and do. After all, I may have finished quite a few stories, but you have to double that to get the number of stories I have unfinished.)
One of the cures for Stuck-Gate Syndrome is to try something new, either with your writing or in life. Last time I had this it had been 6 weeks since I’d finished my previous story. I had been on the hunt for a new idea for at least a month and had already lost count of the number of ideas that had fallen apart in the pre-planning process. So what did I do? I wrote a high concept pseudo-portal fantasy. Because it sounded like fun. Because sometimes we get stuck. I know what kind of stories I like, but I was stuck on vampires. There are LOTS of dark fantasy themes to play with and I couldn’t get any of them to work because I missed my vampires. Let me tell ya, nothing fills your writing tank with ideas faster than being completely out of your element. (I know it’s still fantasy, but trust me, high fantasy is nothing like contemporary fantasy.)
Some people might find a new niche when they branch outside their comfort zone. Other people will go back to their element stronger and armed like never before. (Because, dude, you pick up some AWESOME skills when you’re doing something different.) One month into that high concept and I started getting flooded with ideas. Instead of fighting to scrounge up a workable story idea, I had stories stashing themselves away in my brain and working themselves out while I slept. Instead of looking at this blog and thinking, what the frick am I going talk about this week? I’m sifting through drafts trying to decide what I’m going to expand upon and post each week. On one hand it’s like, “AAAHHH stop!” But on the other hand, it’s like my brain is trying to make up for lost time and who am I to quell it’s fun?
You see, I spent 5 years trying to write a novel in what I’m calling the “darkest years” also known as “college and the adjustment year.” The same idea. Over and over again trying to make it work and never finishing it.
Recently, I read something by Stephen King and he was talking about his own 5 year drought which, like mine, came upon him in college. I understand now why I couldn’t write anything…because, like him, I started thinking about the mechanics and whys and ins and outs and all this stuff. Instead of just writing, I was trying to follow the “rules.” Instead of writing, I was trying to “understand” why I like what I like and what made my story a story. And there is just no reason to do that. We need to know these things, of course, so maybe this adjustment period is necessary. The important thing is that after we learn it, we forget it, and let it move to driving us subconsciously instead of consciously.
There’s something both overwhelming and exciting about having a notepad full of ideas and every last one of them interests you. They don’t all make the cut, of course, but it’s great to have options. It’s nice to have a choice. When I wrote that high fantasy I didn’t have a choice. It’s the only idea I had at the time that would work. It’s like the good old days again when I used to spread my composition books out in a circle around me and try to pick my next project. Only now I type everything up and scan the list until something jumps out and grabs me and says, “Write me or I’ll DIIIEEE!” Or something to that effect. ^_^
I don’t have to worry about where my next idea is going to come from because they’re literally everywhere! One less thing to worry about. And we all know stress is seriously bad for creativity. ^_^
Now I just need to remember this the next time I’m stuck.