What do you do when you get stuck on a story or run out of motivation or creativity? How do you refresh it? How do you get inspired?
I’ve been wrestling with these questions lately because my imagination has been quite stingy. Just last week, while I was working on a short story, my brain froze up. Instantly, I felt stupid and incapable of forming complete thoughts. I couldn’t figure out why this was happening or what to write next or how to form the second half of the piece. Every idea I came up with seemed obvious or lame. It was extremely frustrating and I went three days without writing a good word (and this is bad because I have some deadlines coming up).
Sometimes you have to get out of your routine to awaken your imagination and stimulate brain activity. Think of it as shaking-up a bottle of orange juice that’s been sitting a while. Once you turn it over, the pulp starts moving and the juice becomes whole and fresh again (sorry if you don’t like pulp in your orange juice).
If you’ve been staring at your computer screen for three days trying to come up with the second half of your story, odds are, you won’t find it there. You’ve got to get away from the computer. If sitting alone in a quiet room is not producing fruit, then you’ve got to get out of that room. If a long drive on a country road doesn’t get ideas flowing, it’s time to get out of the car.
Here’s an idea. Try going somewhere that is similar to a place you’re writing about. If there is a lake in your story, go find a lake you’ve never seen before. If a scene of yours takes place at a restaurant, go find a restaurant you’ve never eaten at. If your characters live in an apartment, go fake apartment hunting. If your antagonist drives a Jeep, go test-drive a Jeep. And see what happens. I bet it will get you writing again and I bet that writing will lead to new ideas in the story.
I recently did this. There is a cemetery in a short story I’ve been working on, and I got stuck at what should happen at that cemetery. So I got in the car at lunch (instead of eating in the office lunchroom) and drove to a nearby cemetery I’d never visited. I just walked around and read some tombstones. I wasn’t looking for detail, just inspiration. And you know what? I got some ideas. And I went home and wrote about them and one thing led to another and my story began fleshing itself out.
So, reboot your brain. Get out in the world and do something that causes your brain to process new information. See something you’ve never seen before. Talk to someone you’ve never talked to before. Eat something you’ve never eaten before. Just get that brain working and it will do the rest.