Writing is a practice. Just as athletes have to practice to get better at their sport, we writers must practice to get better at our craft.
It was in Natalie Goldberg’s book Writing Down the Bones that I first saw this comparison made and the analogy has moved me ever since, especially because I’m a runner. I’m a very slow runner, but a runner, nonetheless, and whenever I’m running a race or training for one I’m also always thinking about writing. Lately, I’ve decided to dig a little deeper with this analogy between writing and running.
Runners train not just to get faster, but also to get stronger. Runners train to prevent injury. So, I started thinking, how can we writer’s train to prevent the injury of writer’s block?
I believe the best way to beat writer’s block is to prevent facing it in the first place. So here are 7 ways we writers can condition our creative muscles.
Write down 10 ideas a day. Every writer should keep a running list of ideas whether it’s in a notebook that you carry in your handbag or in an app on your phone that you carry in your pocket. On that list try to jot down 10 ideas every day. In the foreword to the book Become an Idea Machine, James Altucher says this is one of the best ways to boost your creativity. By brainstorming ideas daily you’re exercising your creativity muscles. Altucher writes: “You will be like a superhero. It’s almost a guaranteed membership in the Justice League of America. Every situation you are in, you will have a ton of ideas. Any question you are asked, you will know the response. Every meeting you are at, you will take the meeting so far out of the box you’ll be on another planet, if you’re stuck on a desert highway – you will figure the way out, if you need to make money you’ll come up with 50 ideas to make money.”
Seek Pinspiration. When I was a creative writing minor in college some of the best short stories I wrote came from ideas sparked not by the words of great writers but by images. One of my instructors would often have us purchase point-and-shoot disposable cameras (I’m old and this was before the days of smartphones) and go take pictures of anything we saw that caught our eye. We then had to write a short story inspired by the snapshots. Think of how much fun it would be for you to do the same. Or, that Pinterest page that you use for recipes and cute outfits could also be used to help your writing. Start a board onto which you pin images that you will later turn to for inspiration for a story, essay or poem.
Keep a word box. Similar to your Pinterest board, start a box of one-word writing prompts that you can pull from when you’re in a rut. A digital version of this idea would be to use a random word generator like randomlists.com/random-words.
Try the Writer Igniter. If you’re a fiction writer, try the Writer Igniter, which will give you a randomly generated combination of a character, situation, prop, and setting. If you’re a non-fiction writer like me, try writing prompts like the ones found here and here.
Surround yourself with stories. Good writers read good writing. I say this a lot because my writing is always better when I’m consuming quality content. Just as you should schedule time to write every day, be sure to also schedule time to read books and magazines and catch up on your favorite blogs. Even good TV can be a source of inspiration.
Use social media for good. Let’s be honest, on most days social media is a self-righteous cesspool, but it can also be a great source of story ideas for fiction and non-fiction writers alike. Look around your social media feeds, see what people are talking about, and instead of getting into Internet arguments with family members, old friends from college, or complete strangers, write an essay, story, blog post or poem that expresses your view on the topic. Doing exactly that led to this article that I wrote for B-Metro.
Live life. Nothing will inspire you more than just living life. Nothing. Probe your past, present, and hopes for the future for story ideas.
Being around other writers is sure to inspire you, too. Enrollment for the See Jane Write Members Collective will be reopening soon. If you’re interested in joining, fill out the membership application here to join our VIP list and you’ll be notified first when enrollment reopens.