Dear Sherry: Staring at a Blank Page

Dear Sherry,

I’ve got nothing. Drawing a complete blank. I’ve always been a one idea at a time type of writer, but it has been three months since I’ve come up with an idea for my next book. Most of my writer friends have two and three, sometimes even more, writing projects on the go. Me? Nothing. 

I know there is no “home office in Schenectady” that sends out ideas to writers (I really wish there were), so how can I come up with a new idea? I have tried to relax and let my sub-conscious flow but so far I’ve drawn blanks and now my anxiety about this is making things worse. Am I going to be stuck like this forever?

Signed,
Staring at a Blank Page

***

Dear Page,

My guess is that you have come up with some story ideas, but you have just dismissed them before giving them a chance to develop into anything good or bad.

Relaxing and letting your sub-conscious flow can be very useful, but it isn’t the only thing you can do to get the ideas pumping. Certainly not being anxious about it will help. Here are some things to try:

  1. Go for a long, brisk walk. Whether you think about ideas or not, work up a good sweat and clear your mind of all other worries so that your sub-conscious has a chance to work and the ideas can float to the surface;
  2. Write down thoughts as they come to you: a character’s name, a setting, a theme you’d like to explore. They may not amount to anything by themselves, but by perhaps combining or re-arranging a few of them, an idea will spark and form into something more;
  3. What do you want to write about? What interests you? What theme, current event, topic, setting, cultural construct, would you like to research and explore through story?
  4. What story has been written that you love but know that you could tell better?
  5. What story has been written that you can give a different, uniquely your own, twist to?
  6. Sit down with your writer’s group or some trusted and understanding friends, and brainstorm with them;
  7. Rather than being quick to dismiss those sparks of ideas, give them at least a few minutes of your time. Write them down and then jot down some ways the story could develop through characters and conflicts. How can you make this story uniquely yours? Maybe it will grow into something, maybe it is terrible, but you won’t know until you try. Even if it is terrible now, don’t throw it out. Tuck it away. It may prove useful in the future.

I promise you, you will not be stuck staring at the blank page forever. Working on coming up with ideas, thinking about what you want to write, is always an important part of the process. Keeping that in mind should help reduce the anxiety and release those ideas.

Creatively yours, Sherry


Sherry Peters“Dear Sherry” is an opportunity to ask for advice on writer’s/creativity block, time management, the process of writing, and more. Sherry Peters is a Certified Life Coach who works with writers at all stages of their writing career looking to increase their productivity through pushing past the self-doubt holding them back. Her fiction has won the Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-book award, and been nominated for the Aurora Award, Canada’s top prize for Speculative fiction.

If you could ask a writing coach anything, here is your chance! Send her an e-mail at coachsherry@sherrypeters.com.

7 Comments

  • Lane Robins April 7, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    Some of my favorite ways to spark stories is to look at a story I like and then imagine what it would be like with a totally different character in the lead. Basically thinking of fish out of water situations. How would the librarian react to the eldritch horror from beyond, the school kid, the businessman, the military leader, a motivational speaker…. just to see if something interesting comes of that.

    Reply
    • Lane Robins April 7, 2017 at 12:51 pm

      And of course what Sherry says! Don’t dismiss your ideas too hastily. Even if you think they don’t have legs. Let them percolate for a while, see if you can make some interesting changes to an idea.

      Reply
  • davidbrawley April 8, 2017 at 10:04 am

    It’s amazing how helpful going for a long walk can be.

    Reply
    • Shara White April 10, 2017 at 1:08 pm

      So much this. I walked SO MUCH when I was finishing up my graduate thesis (which was, incidentally, a science fiction novel).

      Reply
      • Sherry Peters April 14, 2017 at 11:07 pm

        I used to walk to work and it really helped my creativity. Even walking home from the bus would help. I’ve purposely gone for long walks to jumpstart my creativity and maybe it was because I was trying too hard, but those walks weren’t particularly successful. The next day, a few steps to the washroom at work? Breakthrough! Maybe things had been shaken loose the day before. I’m not sure. I am planning on getting myself a treadmill in the next month or two so I can walk with greater regularity again and hopefully keep those creative juices flowing.

        Reply
        • Shara White April 16, 2017 at 1:23 pm

          If anything, keeping your body mobile like that keeps you relaxed in a way. Even if you aren’t thinking creatively during your walk, what’s good for your body is good for your brain, which allows those creativity sparks to come later!

          Reply

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