Oh sh*** - I've Got No Ideas

Seriously, ever heard about what happens to your brain when you panic? You have three parts of your brain – the highest function is the bit you use for creativity. The second function is the one that makes your emotional responses; it’s the one that seeks out love, support, comfort. The final (lowest) function gets called your lizard brain, which controls your flight or fight responses. So, when you panic, the two higher functions shut down, and all you can do is run away or fight. Not very helpful if you're trying to get something written – especially with a deadline.

I’m here to tell you – if you have practised your craft, you will be able to produce something to that deadline. It may not be your most inspired work ever, but it will exist, and it will do.

This brings me on to my next comment. If like me, you are a pursuer of perfection, then you are going to hit a block more often than others. When you try to have a perfect idea – either you panic because no idea could ever be good enough, or you panic because you’ll never be good enough to fulfil the awesomeness of the idea in your head. So try to let go of perfection – it is alright for things to be ‘good enough'. And yes, this is me offering advice that I find difficult myself! If you write something, even if it’s the worst thing ever produced, it is still better than something that never goes on to the paper.

So we’ve taken a deep breath. Has that helped? No, I suspected it wouldn’t. And you didn’t come here for facts about reptilian brains or how it is no good to pursue perfection constantly. You want practical solutions. I hear ya.

Practical exercise 1: Go through some old notebooks and pick one random character idea. Now take that character and put them in a situation where they have to make an impossible decision. I like to go to superhero movies for inspiration on these ideas. Batman – the character’s love and their best friend are being held at opposite ends of the city by the evil killer, and your character can only save one. Iron Man – do they save their plucky sidekick or prevent the tech from getting into enemy hands? The scene doesn't even have to be something that would ever face the character, it's just the process of writing a conflict somehow frees you.

Practical exercise 2: Go for a walk, visit a café, or even just a slightly different place in your house. Change venues. Once there, open a notebook or a new document and write, “This exercise is silly. I don’t know what ideas this is going to make flow” and continue writing until other things begin to flow into your work. You don’t need to change the venue for this exercise to work, but I find you get an extra kick of inspiration from a new environment.

Practical exercise 3: Magical What If: Object edition … pick a random object. Now ask the question, What if it was magical? This question will spark new questions – what would it do? How did I come to have it? And so on. As you answer these questions your creative brain will be positively salivating with the juiciness of world-building. Repeat with other objects until you find some way they are connected to characters and conflicts.

I hope some of these ideas have helped, but if you have any exercises that have worked for you, let me know in the comments below.

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