Vision: A Resource for Writers

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Searching for Inspiration

By Elizabeth Chayne
Copyright 2008 by Elizabeth Chayne, All Rights Reserved

There are days when you sit at your desk and can't seem to get any work done. A couple of hours go by, and all you have to show for it is a blank screen or a few crumpled sheets of notepaper.

The frustrating thing is that these "dry" periods often come right before a deadline, just when you need your writing skills the most; or right after a highly productive day, when you start to think you might actually "make it" as a writer.

What could be the problem? And what can you do to solve it?


The weather's great, your friends have all gone to the seaside for a picnic, and you're stuck in your room, trying to finish up that essay you need to hand in tomorrow. Distractions come when your mind starts to wander from the task at hand. Often, this is because you're bored with the work in front of you.

As a rule, when you are so distracted that it's getting hard to concentrate on your work, you should take a break. Write a few scenes instead of doing research. Plan out characters instead of working on the plot. That way, you're still getting work done, and not just sitting there getting distracted.

Needless to say, if your distractions are of the physical variety (thirst, hunger, etc.), then you should take a break and focus on dealing with the distraction first.

Lack of Ideas

Some days your muse abandons you and you simply can't think of anything. This often happens because of pressure from deadlines. The more you want yourself to think out a brilliant plot, the less you will be able to think one up.

What to do? Take a shower.

While this may sound like funny advice, it's actually been proven scientifically that taking showers helps people to find inspiration. You may have already discovered that a lot of good ideas come to you in the shower, but if you haven't, there's no better time to try it out than now.

Natural Writing Cycle

Sometimes, after a particularly productive day, you may find that you're "out of ideas." This might be part of your natural writing cycle. Some people's muses need time to recover from idea-producing, and thus, you may end up thinking that you've lost the knack to write.

Assuming there isn't any special hurry, it's better to stop and let your muse rest until it's ready to write again. However, if you are facing a deadline or some other form of pressure, then you can try reading over the work you've done before and try to pick up from there.

It's always better to work on outlines and general plot lines before you start on the actual story, as you will still have something to refer to if you suddenly are hit with writer's block. If you're the sort of person who has an easily tired muse, you may want to rethink the concept of "writing whenever the mood strikes you."

It's not usually a good idea to ask for an extension on the deadline when you have an absent muse as this will only cause your muse to be lulled into a false sense that there is "plenty of time" for it to recover.

Write What You See

The next time you sit at your desk, surrounded with wads of notepaper, try writing a story about the objects you see. Write about someone looking for their muse, or a story of genii living in wads of notepaper. A little humor usually helps to wake up the sleeping muse.

And if the "searching for inspiration" story starts twisting off onto another path (say science fiction, Western, romance, etc.), then just go with the flow.

If you're lucky, and the story turns out to the one you need to meet your deadline, then go ahead and use it!

The truth is that it's hard to be a writer. Other people may complain that it's hard to sit at their desks and do the same thing over and over again, but it's definitely much, much harder to sit at your desk and think up new plots, characters, and twists every day.

Try not to be too hard on yourself!