Sometimes the hardest part of writing is the beginning. A blank screen can be intimidating, but with a powerful brainstorm session, you’ll have more ideas than you know what to do with! As a writer and fellow Lulu, I appreciate how frustrating writer’s block can be, which is why I’ve come up with a few tips to help you beat that barrier that all aspiring authors face. Everyone has their own tricks to help unlock their inner muse, so please post any advice that you would like to share with others in the Lulu community!
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- Make your own creative space. Maybe this changes from week to week (a new coffee shop or park bench) or perhaps you have carved out a designated writing place that you return to again and again (a particular room in your house). There are no rules for your creative space except that it should only include things that encourage rather than inhibit innovation. So turn off your cell and get away from your computer and any other distractions, if possible.
- Set a minimum amount of time. Plan to brainstorm for at least 20 to 30 minutes without interruption. If your brainstorm session goes longer, that’s great, but make sure you have a solid amount of time to encourage a consistent flow of ideas.
- A fresh start. Get away from focusing on tired ideas that you’ve been stuck on for awhile. Write these all down on a piece of paper, and push them to the side. Now that you’ve emptied your brain, begin a new thought process of story leads and character ideas that you’ve never considered.
- Draw on new inspirations. My favorite professor in college was an English teacher and published short story writer who kept a coffee tin chock-full of newspaper clippings and faded photographs that she would use as little inspirations when she was in need of a new story idea. Find inspiration in the ordinary by flipping through a magazine or looking through your collection of postcards from old friends. You’ll be surprised to find that story sparks can come from the most unlikely places.
- Your brain needs exercise, too. Remember those silly daily journal entries that you used to have to write in language arts class in middle school? Well, your teacher was right. Just like you have to stretch and warm up before going on a run, you also should do writing exercises to get your mind moving. There is a wealth of sites with these simple journal entries on the Internet if you can’t think of any. The Writer’s Digest site, in particular, has some great prompts that are worth checking out.
- Stream-of-consciousness storming. No idea is too outlandish for you to include on your list. List everything that comes to mind without worrying about organization or coherence. For now you want to get as many ideas down on paper as possible.
- Tools for the storm. Arm yourself with Post-it notes and any extra inspirations. Just as sports fans have their superstitious rituals and lucky objects, writers can also establish a system to get into the habit of productive writing. A few of my lucky writing tools include a bobblehead pen that says “Genius”, my journal and a copy of See Jane Write. I also rely on inspirational quotes from my Daily Kiss widget and Skirt! Magazine.
- Two heads are better than one. Find someone to bounce ideas off of. Whether this is a friend, a loved one or another literary genius, it doesn’t matter as long as they are a positive force for generating ideas. Look for local writer groups in your area, or join a Lulu group or forum discussion. If you offer to listen to someone else’s ideas they often will be more inclined to give you the advice you need.
Now that you have all these ideas on paper, it’s time to organize and develop them into coherent thoughts. Pick your top two or three ideas and build upon them by creating a mind map, an organizational tool that adds structure to ideas. You can create mind maps either the old-fashioned way on paper, or you download mind map software such as FreeMind, a free program that creates word webs.
Now that you are a brainstorming and organizational expert, it’s time to flesh out your ideas and spend some time developing them into the next great Lulu publication! With some patience, time and a little help from Lulu, you’re on your way to becoming a self-published author.