I've talked about similar topics like this one before (found here), but I still wanted to touch on this one. There's always this fear as a writer, of any genre, but crime in particular, that you will run out of ideas, and your career will be over and oh no, that's it, you're done. The truth of the matter is that mostly, as you going along your writing journey, you will find new ideas no matter where you are. Life is very good at inspiring artists of all kinds.
But what happens when you run into the issue of you've actually not written in months and you have no idea what to write or where to go, and this time it's seriously bad, and you don't think you'll ever write again? I have a piece planned next week to discuss part of that in more detail, which is burnout, but sticking to the topic for today, is it possible to run out of ideas and if so, what can you do?
I'm gonna give you some tips I've picked up along the way and hopefully, they'll be of some help to you. If you're someone who's overflowing with ideas, then feel free to share how you come across them in the comments below. But moving onto my tips!
#1 IS THIS ACTUALLY WRITING RELATED?
This is a question I ask myself often because, as you all know, I'm disabled with several chronic conditions that make it hard for me to manage a lot of the time. So asking myself this, especially when I'm trying to brainstorm the next book or what not, is key, because you're checking in with yourself both mentally and emotionally, about whether or not the ideas aren't coming because of some external issue.
Like on bad mental health days, or bad pain days, or when something major is happening in my personal life, all of those things are perfectly valid and can drain you from the topic at hand. Knowing whether it really is writing related or not, is key to being able to move forward onto the next step, because if it isn't writing related, then you have your answer. You take the time you need to deal with whatever it is, and you give yourself a much needed break from other things.
#2 WHAT IS THE WRITING ISSUE?
This might sound like a dumb question because if you knew what the issue was, then you wouldn't be running out of ideas, right? Well, yes and no. If it's a writing issue in that you're in the midst of revising, or editing or anything else like that, then it can just be that your plate is a little full to be tackling this right now, and that's okay.
If it's not something like that, then you need to be asking yourself more questions, like, am I wanting to write something different? Is there a new genre I'm desperate to try? Or even, is the genre I'm in the issue right now? And so on. This can lead to a whole bunch of other answers that you can follow along the way until you get to the root of the issue.
For example, when I write, I don't try and hem myself in too much to genre. For a long time I did do that, I stuck to crime/mystery with hints of paranormal, but I didn't always have the ideas that fit that genre. And so I gave myself permission to brain storm other genres, and there we have it, I'm not a multi-genre author while still under the YA category.
#3 DOES BRAINSTORMING HELP OR HINDER?
I ask myself this because if it helps, then it might just be that you have a lot going on and need to get it all out on the page and work out where it fits later on. If you have a bunch of unconnected ideas, write them out, thought-dump them, and see if any of them can be connected to each other.
If brainstorming is hindering your process, then maybe it's a sign that you're burnt out which isn't a bad thing. I'd suggest taking a small break and letting yourself breathe without all that pressure to be creating and writing and everything that goes along with it. It might feel like you're doing the wrong thing, but I promise you it's better to take that break than end up fully burned out. Been there, done that, it was not fun.
And finally, #4 DO CERTAIN THINGS INSPIRE ME, AND HAVE I DONE THEM RECENTLY?
This can be anything from reading within your genre of choice, or taking a shower, or going for a walk/wheel and seeing what you can find that might spark your ideas going. Like right now I have just come out of lockdown from COVID. I'm considered vulnerable to the virus so have been in lockdown since the start of March. I am super excited about getting to go out of my house and see if that sparks any new ideas.
And for some reason, having my hair did is another thing that inspires me, and I have that booked (first one since February) for September 4th and I'm so looking forward to it. Doing the kinds of things that have inspired you, is a good step to take and see what comes from that.
Just remember to take breaks, be kind to yourself and also know that the ideas are out there, it just might take you a little time to get them all put together.