Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Chasing Down Ideas by Courtney Walsh

I used to think I had to wait for inspiration to strike in order to sit down and start writing, but when you get your first deadline, that all goes out the window.

Ideas are out there, but they don’t always ping like a light bulb over your head. Sometimes you have to work for them. You can stare at your computer screen, waiting for that jolt of creative electricity…or you can try these five tried and true ways to spark creativity and get the ideas flowing.

1. Do something mundane. When your brain is actively engaged, focused on one thing, it can overload and become nearly impossible to have a breakthrough. If you clean a toilet, do some laundry or perform any other mundane task, your mind can disengage, allowing new ideas to filter in. 

2. Do a little role-play. If your characters aren’t cooperating, have a conversation with them. Or make them have a conversation with each other. Out loud. There’s something about speaking the words aloud that help you hear how the dialogue will really sound. If you let yourself act the scene out, you’ll stumble upon natural reactions and it can help your story take off. (They might even surprise you!) 

3. Brainstorm with a buddy. Nobody said you had to come up with all the ideas on your own! Find a friend who loves to read or a fellow writer and take an afternoon to help each other brainstorm. Think of the three most obvious paths your story could take and throw them away. Think of three more and throw those away. Eventually, you’ll stumble upon an idea that resonates and you’ll be off and running, healthy dose of inspiration in hand. 

4. Change your view. I write in the same chair almost every single day. I love it. It’s cozy. I know where to put my coffee. However, there are many times when it’s just too much, and I feel like the walls are closing in on me. If I pick up my laptop and head to my local Barnes and Noble or coffee shop, instantly, my attitude shifts. There’s something about getting out in the world that makes ideas more accessible. It’s hard to be creative staring at the same four walls every day. 

5. Forget about it for a little while. It’s so tempting to sit there and force an idea, but creativity isn’t something that can be forced. It needs to be coaxed. And sometimes the best way to do that is to forget about it all together. Pretend you don’t have that nagging reminder echoing in your mind telling you to hurry up and figure it out. Go for a walk. Have lunch with a friend. Go window shopping or maybe read a book by an author you love. Creativity is a little like love that way…it comes along when you least expect it, aren’t looking for it and aren’t sure you completely recognize it.

Next time you’re stumped, give one of these ideas a try. They’re bound to shake loose the ideas that are already in your mind, just waiting to be discovered. 

Have you tried any of these ideas in the past? Which one do you think would work best for you?


Courtney Walsh is a novelist, artist, theater director, and playwright. Just Look Up is her sixth novel and is, as she says, "her most personal." Her debut novel, A Sweethaven Summer, hit the New York Times and USA Today e-book bestseller lists and was a Carol Award finalist in the debut author category. She has written two additional books in the Sweethaven series, as well two books in the Paper Hearts series, two craft books and several full-length musicals. Courtney lives in Illinois where she and her husband own a performing and visual arts studio. They have three children.