That Lightbulb Moment

I'm having a hard time concentrating. That's because there's a lovely-smelling soy candle burning beside me that transports my mind to Hawaii, and because there's a little icon on Cara Putman's face looking at me from the "recently downloaded" file folder at the bottom of my screen. Speaking of Cara Putman, her newest novel, A Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island, released this week, and if you haven't already done so, you should splurge and go buy yourself a copy. The setting is fabulous, and Cara's a great writer. A review will be forthcoming once I finish the story!

Isn't the cartoon at the right hilarious? I was looking for the perfect brainstorming clip art, and let's just say it found me. Something about the largeness of this guy's head gives me the giggles.

Today I thought I'd ask your input on something I've been struggling with all afternoon. Brainstorming! In the past, I've always been blessed to have about seven book ideas in cue mentally at all times, so I've never really had to fish for a new concept. But I'm trying to push myself and branch out a bit, and let's just say, coming up with something from scratch is hard! Have you all experienced this? Here are some pointers I've found either work well for me, or I've heard work well for other people:

1) Don't try so hard. This is a big thing for me. When I'm fretting over finding a perfect idea, my creativity takes a hike. If I casually think about stories while, say, I'm driving or taking a walk (or buying unnecessary shoes), it seems that the ideas flow so much easier.

2) Look to news stories for inspiration. I haven't tried this one myself, but in a workshop I once attended, James Scott Bell explained that he got the inspiration behind the opening scene of one of his books (I think it was Try Dying) from a real news story that he found very moving.

3) If you know the setting or target audience, familiarize yourself with it. If you're going to write YA, check out YA websites. If you're writing historical, try to visit historical sites near your town that might jog your creativity.

4) When all else fails, just sit down and write. Doesn't matter if it's good. Doesn't matter if you use those exact sentences. If you write long enough, you'll likely stumble into something great, and you'll also have already coached yourself to write past the doldrums.

5) Talk through your ideas with a critique partner, a good friend, or a chatty Starbucks barista. Sometimes working through something verbally is the best way to get things flowing in your mind.

I want to hear from you! How do you get ideas for your books, and how to you go beyond writer's block on those days when your creativity seems to be stuck?


  1. I love number five. When I have an idea for a story, I'll send it to my critique partners and let them run wild with it. They ask me questions and give input. It's a lot of fun, and even if I don't use any of their ideas directly, the process gets my creativity moving again.

  2. That is such a good point, Julie! I also always feel encouraged after talking to a friend or critique partner (who happens to BE a friend), and it helps get the creative thoughts flowing.