I’ve been stuck lately. Way stuck. Lost in the Amazon jungle, stuck. And that’s stuck, my friends. If you need to use the word stuck five or six times within your first few sentences, then that’s, well, pretty stuck.
I hate to admit it, but I’ve been without a fresh idea to write about for months. But that’s all changed, because I’ve rediscovered a well kept secret.
The problem started with the completion of my latest book “Writer’s Doubt.” The book had been in the works for the last few years and had kept me so busy writing that I didn’t need to force myself to think up any fresh ideas, because they were pouring out of me onto the page already. (Don’t you love when that happens?)
When the project was finally completed it was a time for celebration and I felt a wonderful sense of release and accomplishment, but it also brought with it the dreaded, void. I became lost as to what to write about next.
Perhaps you’ve experienced the idea void phenomenon after completing a major writing project?
I always need to be doing something, I need to have my fingers moving, typing – clickety-clack. I need to be exploiting an idea.
So I started to:
- Ask everyone I know for ideas and suggestions.
- Read more blog posts, more magazine articles and listened to more audio books.
Still nothing… until I…
My thoughts were alphabet soup in my head swirling around like a tornado. That’s what happens when you panic and get desperate for ideas.
You don’t have an idea, but you’re a writer and you need to write about something so when you draw a blank you start to freak out. You know better, but you do it anyway. (Go ahead, admit it. It’s ok.)
Stop. Quiet your mind. The answer isn’t in forcing yourself into thinking up new ideas or putting any kind of additional pressure on yourself, because that will just have the opposite affect and cause you to get brainlocked.
Brainlock is an internal message that you need to take a break and regroup, so your mind shuts down in order to force your hand.
Here are a few steps to help you get back to writing sooner, rather than later:
Step 1: After finishing a major project congratulate yourself for a job well done!
Step 2: Go celebrate! Perhaps take a trip, or eat ice cream or some chocolate. Basically, do something that’s very special to you.
Step 3: Instead of forcing yourself to think of something new, relax. The ideas will come, so there’s no need to force them. The more you panic and force yourself to come up with ideas the longer it will be before you start writing again.
Step 4: Change up your routine, which leads me to…
For the last few years while working on “Writer’s Doubt,” it was there every morning waiting for me. I’d wake up, go make some coffee and head to my desk knowing what I would write about that day.
Knowing what you’re going to write about is half the battle.
Not having a project waiting for me each morning left me more than a little bewildered. Until I remembered the secret of silence.
Silence is from where the greatest ideas, innovations and inventions, and especially, the greatest writings, first come into being.
You know how it is, you’re not thinking of anything of relevance and suddenly a great idea pops into your head and you have no idea where it came from.
It’s when we calm down and STOP forcing ourselves to think that our minds are truly free to process our thoughts and deliver to us that which we seek.
Never miss a good chance to shut up.
―Will Rogers (Tweet This Quote)
Now I have a modified routine every morning and I follow it even when I already have a clear idea of what I want to write about for the day.
I wake up, make the coffee and then sit at my writing desk and stop all thinking for the next 5 minutes. 5 minutes of silence is all I need to rejuvenate my spirit for writing.
Silence truly is golden. When we are silent we are able to tap into our subconscious, and at the same time release anxiety and stress, and just be.
It’s in moments of silence that the best ideas surface and make themselves known to us, which will lead us into our natural creative flow.
If you haven’t tried it yet, give it a chance. Don’t worry about completely shutting off your thoughts, that’s not possible, but it is possible to ignore them and focus on the quietness within.
5 quick tips on using silence to generate ideas:
- Pick a time and place where you won’t be interrupted.
- Sit down and make sure you’re comfortable.
- Close your eyes and with your mind’s eye visualize something to anchor your focus. For example, I like to focus on the calm surface of a lake.
- As thoughts try to interrupt you, simply acknowledge them, but don’t engage with them, let them go.
- When you’re finished, immediately write down any ideas that come to you over the next few minutes and if one appeals to you more than the others, consider writing more details about it.
Take 5 minutes of your time today and simply sit in silence. Who knows, you may come up with your next blog post, an essay idea for your contest entry or maybe even an idea for your next book!
Share your experience with us in the comments. I’d love to know how it works out for you.