We all fall into creative slumps. Instead of wallowing in your misery, convinced that you’ll never have a good idea again, you may want to try a different tactic. When I’m feeling uninspired, I try these tricks to get me writing again:
- Write down the details of your hometown. How many stoplights did it have? Where was the library? Where was the best place to eat/shop/buy bait? This will help you focus on scene description, and should be fairly easy, as it’s a place you probably know well.
- Pick a random character name (let’s use Ernie Dinklefwatt for our purposes here). List ten things about that character that start with the sentence “Ernie Dinklefwatt is the type of person who . . .” For example: “Ernie Dinklefwatt is the type of person who wears a dust mask while cleaning the house.”
- Do something imaginative that’s not in your usual medium. I’m not just talking about writing a nonfiction piece if you normally write horror. I’m talking about painting a watercolor or playing in Photoshop when you normally write. This can help you release some of your creative energy while taking the pressure off having to produce.
- Write an author biography page for an author you admire. What are their greatest accomplishments? What do you know about their personal lives? Now take that brief bio and write one for yourself, using a similar setup and style to the one you created for the author you admire.
- Go to the mall or another public place and observe the people around you. Pick out three and write a short character sketch of who you think they are and what their backstory might be.
- What’s the worst place you can think of to be? Living in a cardboard box on the street? Sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting for your biopsy results? Being admitted into an insane asylum? Write a scene putting yourself in one of these situations. What do you see? What are you thinking? What do you smell? What are you feeling?
- Put on your favorite song and describe what they’re singing about. What does the Hotel California look like/smell like/charge per night? What does Layla look like/how does she act/does she even want Eric Clapton on his knees? What is Ziggy Stardust’s planet like? For you younger people, why does Miley Cyrus ride a wrecking ball at all? What’s that about?
- Take a scene—maybe your description of the Hotel California from the previous exercise, or a scene in your favorite book—and rewrite it entirely in dialogue, using conversation to convey the most important elements.
- Google an image of anything—“cats scared by cucumbers” or “bad seventies mustaches”—and pick a picture. Write down the five basic elements (who, what, why, when, and where) of that picture.
Who? Ron Jeremy
What? Felt his bad seventies mustache was his most impressive body part.
Why? Because it never failed to catch the ladies’ eyes.
When? Throughout the eighties.
Where? On the set of Romancing the Bone. “Wait, it is my mustache they’re looking at, right?” Ron asked.
It may seem silly, but it’s a great way to prompt your mind to create a little snapshot of a world.
- Think of two characters from two different books, movies, TV shows, whatever—and write a scene in which they meet. Say you’re a big fan of Gone With the Wind and The Walking Dead. What would Daryl Dixon think of Scarlett O’Hara? Would Rhett Butler be as intrigued with Carol Peletier as audiences are? Sketch out the dialogue and reactions as these two peoples’ worlds collide.
Hopefully, this list helps you stretch out your creative chops and gets you thinking again.
What do you do when you’re in a creative slump? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!
Stacey Longo is the author of Ordinary Boy (nominated for a Pushcart Prize) and Secret Things: Twelve Tales to Terrify. Her YA horror novel My Sister the Zombie is due out in 2016. Her stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, including Shroud, Shock Totem, and the Litchfield Literary Review.
She is a past Hiram Award winner, and was a featured author on the 2014 Connecticut Authors Trail. A former humor columnist for the Block Island Times, she maintains a weekly humor blog at www.staceylongo.com.