It’s time for another Hi Susan, and this question came from Penny…
I’ve been writing and writing and I never thought I’d run out of plot ideas but I have. Does that mean I’m not supposed to be a writer?
My answer to Penny, you are supposed to be a writer. All of us run out of ideas. Sometimes it happens when you have been writing non-stop. In that case, it’s more burn out than the dreaded, I can’t think of anything else to write about.
Here’s what I’ve found helps when I need to recharge and come up with more ideas…this was especially helpful when I was a freelance writer so it works for both fiction and non-fiction-
Take a Break
Give yourself permission to take a few days off and do something fun like binge watch on Netflix. Go get a manicure, go shopping, eat ice cream. Just do something that’s totally unrelated to writing.
The Valuable Notebook
I might have told you this before but I’ve always kept a notebook filled with snippets of ideas, pieces of dialogue, a brief character outline. And yes, even cuttings from magazines and newspapers. When I need some inspiration, I go through them to see what story I can create with them I’d say 75% of the stories I’ve written first began life in this notebook.
Magazines and the Internet
Even if you don’t want to keep a notebook, thumb through magazines and go looking on line for articles and stories. Have fun reading them but also look at them as potential prompts for stories.
Go for a Walk
This used to be my favorite thing. It’s even fun to do when you want to take a break from writing and stretch your legs. There’s something about exercise and fresh air that seems to spark the muse.
Snoop and Listen
You never run out of ideas when you go to someplace like a coffee shop and snoop and listen to what other people are saying. I hear people talking on their phones all the time and I think that would make the great opening line and the story takes off from there. Many years ago, I used to spend my lunch break walking around the track of a local health club. I used to wear headphones and listen to the radio but once in a while the signal would be disrupted and suddenly people’s conversation who were nearby or walking in front of me would come into those headphones loud and clear. Most of their talk was about what they were going to make for dinner that night but once I thought wouldn’t it be fun if I had a character overhear something she wasn’t supposed to…
Yes, the author’s overactive imagination can run wild but it’s part of the fun of writing.
I hope that’s give you some ideas about what you can do when you run out of ideas and need to kick the muse into action again.