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I wasn’t going to write about this. I actually had another post I’m really excited about that has nothing to do with writing. But someone on Ello had a question about being blocked on a story, and I gave her some advice that I find useful in my own writing.

I’m always surprised when I have anything intelligent to say about writing, because I haven’t been at it that long, and there are people who are far, far more qualified than me to talk about this stuff. Still, looking at the replies she’d gotten, I was happy that I had something of substance to add.

When I talk about being blocked, this is different that the inability to sit in a chair and make yourself write a story. I have that right now, and it’s because I lack discipline, and am feeling guilty about writing right now, because I need to spend most of my waking hours looking for a job.

This is different. I’m thinking of three separate stories that I have, which I still really like, but I have reached a point where all the action that comes next just doesn’t appeal to me. I want something more alluring than the garbage I keep coming up with, and when I want that, here’s what I usually do:

Get Inspired By Doing Something Else. Go to a movie, go to a museum, read poetry. See some dance. Listen to music. Browse Flickr. Think about your story while you’re doing this. See if you can pivot off of something you see or hear.

Get Inspired by Creating Something Else. I once was stuck on direction for a story until I wrote a poem from the standpoint of one of the characters. It helped me get past the words and get into the story, if you know what I mean. You might want to sketch, or even create a story from random internet pictures.

Rule of Three. No matter what I’m creating, if I don’t have an idea I’m in love with, I will try to come up with three ideas for the next action, even if I have one direction in mind. You’d be surprised how often the third idea is the more innovative, interesting one.

Drive It Off the Road. Sometimes I don’t like any of the options I have, in which case I try to come up with the most outlandish solutions I can think of. This can be enough to jog some things loose, and help me stop driving around in the same cul de sac of ideas I’ve been having for the last X hours. Even if you use none of them, at least you’ll have different paths to walk down.

Random Word Generator. And then, sometimes you have nothing. In which case, go to this random word generator. Click on “2” or “3” and see if you can make an action using the two or three words that came up. I like to play with the random word generator just in general; I think it’s a good writing exercise, and a good exercise for the imagination.

These are just some things I do. I know some people use newspapers. I have something called “Story Cubes” but I haven’t used them yet, so I don’t know if they’re helpful. I also have something called “The Observation Deck“, and I haven’t used that either, but they’re fun to read. As with all things, your mileage may vary.

(Full disclosure: I get no advertising dollars, or even an acknowledgement or a thank you note from Amazon for linking the above. I’m a mad linker. I do it for the hell of it. I’m a woman alone. A renegade. A force of overwhelming internet prowess.)

(Yep. That’s me. The person who couldn’t find a graphic for this post. I’m a force.)