Inspiration,  Writing World

Flood Gate

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.


  • Ifeoma Dennis

    Oh I think I have a Blank Slate Malady, but I only finished my first draft yesterday so I guess it's allowed.But really, a lot of the time I keep wondering…what if this baby of mine gets roundly rejected? What would I do?I hope it never happens though.But like you said, I think it's a malady that goes away with time, and with less stress. When I finished my first MS last December, I went through the Malady phase before entering the Stuck-Gate Syndrome, but at the end of the day, I came up with this idea I soooo much love. MwhahahaHope your revisions are going great!

  • krystal jane

    Congrats! ^_^ Blank Slate after finishing a draft is almost necessary. The brain needs a break and we have revisions to focus on anyway. It seems Stuck Gate often follows Blank Slate. Lol! I'm wondering what my next project will be as well, but not worrying yet.Thanks! πŸ™‚ I'm up to my neck in revisions, but think they're going well…I hope. I turned the word count off so I would stop looking at it and panicking every time I cut something. Lol!

  • Rei Michelle

    I'm having Post-Draft Brain Fart. Like, how do I write a sentence again? That's funny that you mentioned your 5 year drought. When I graduated college, having spent the entire time writing, I was fried. I didn't write much creatively in grad school at all–it was only toward the end of grad school that I decided to flesh out an idea and started my blog. It was more of a two year draught for me, I guess.

  • krystal jane

    I know the feeling. Editing is hard. I'm wondering how I even managed in the first place. Lol! Because I definitely can't see myself doing it again. But once this is done and all wrapped up, I'm sure my brain will throw something at me. I just can't think of anything else right now, you know.

  • Beverly Fox

    I live my entire life in stuck gate syndrome. Millions of ideas, some of the half written, some of them just notes, and some no more than brief glimpses that vanish before I take the time to think through them. For every new story I finish I have at least ten existing in the purgatory of my mind, unsure as to whether they will be finished or discarded. (Oh, my poor, poor stories)I like writing excercises that force you to do something specific in a strict word count because it forces me to produce a finished product that I know may be trite but I accept because it's just a writing excercise- give me permission to suck.

  • krystal jane

    Exactly! It's so much better if we take the pressure off ourselves. Give everything you write permission to suck. Really. The first novel I wrote after a long drought was garbage, but it got me going again. I think we're afraid because we don't want to spend all that time writing something that sucks. But this is what editing is for after all. πŸ™‚

  • randi lee

    I love the "try something new" concept. I'm always trying to add some new spice to my life in the hopes that it'll spur some creativity. I once drove one state up and ate at a local diner just to see if the new surroundings would fuel my inspiration…and guess what? It did πŸ™‚

  • krystal jane

    That's a great thing to do! That's why I forced myself into the woods. Lol! I was hoping the venture would help with a story idea I had. Before I wrote my current project I read a murder mystery for the first time and had a blast. ^_^

  • krystal jane

    It is incredibling crippling. I hate that it happens to so many of us. Toss it! ^_^ Do it now! Trust me. You know the rules, everything you need will stick. Nothing else is important. Be free again. πŸ™‚

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