Every writer dreads that moment when he has no idea what to do next. It happens to all of us, some for example to me suffer it more than others, but it happens to all. When we go blank, the same question always arises: how to write a book when you have no ideas?
The issue of blocking is complicated. In this same blog I already talked about this and I explained to you why I think that writer’s block does not exist, that there is no block beyond what we impose on ourselves.
It is difficult to know how to write a book when that well of ideas runs dry. After all, we are nothing without our ideas. We cannot write anything if we do not have those little jewels that we unearth little by little as miners or as archaeologists discovering a dinosaur bone.
The cubes, the ideas and the 500 words a day
Some time ago I was reading on Gabriella Campbell’s blog about the three cube technique. This technique helps us finish things, it is not a creativity technique or one that will solve the blockage, but I think you will be interested in knowing it if you are reading this article.
Jeff Goins tells us that writing is a task made up of three different activities:
- Have ideas.
- Transform those ideas into texts.
- Edit those texts and make them publishable.
Many years ago, after one of my usual freezes and shutdowns, I tried to get going using the technique of typing 500 words a day, I even created a private group on Facebook for it – which is still open, although it is not active.
I started very well, but resistance was not long in coming. I did not meet the goal of writing 500 words a day for 21 days. After the first few days, the screen was still blank and I was tired of waiting and waiting.
Then I came across Gabriella’s article on the Goins system. This system tells us that finding ideas, writing them down, and correcting them are tasks that work well separately.
- Use an app (or notebook) to jot down ideas throughout the day.
- When you want to write, take one of those collected ideas and write. These ideas work as creative triggers. You shouldn’t have trouble writing, since you don’t need to stop and think about anything. You just have to write.
- Finally, take one of those finished texts and edit it. It does not necessarily have to be a story or a novel. It can be an article from your blog. Work on it, clean it up, and make it presentable for posting. It does not have to be at 100%, it will be enough to leave it at 90%.
If you think of writing as a single process you will face a daunting task. It’s like standing at the foot of Kilimanjaro with a pair of climbing shoes and an ice ax. However, if you break that job down into three smaller tasks, things change.
At the height of the game, I guess everyone already has their idea books. I have about 10 and a gigantic folder in Evernote with as many ideas. So running out of ideas should be really difficult, don’t you think?
Climbing a mountain is a daunting task. Covering a stage of a few kilometers every day, until reaching the top, is something that everyone can achieve if they set their mind to it.
When you have no ideas, write anyway
Even with your notebooks and notes you may run out of ideas. It has happened to me. I have hundreds of ideas, which at the time seemed like nothing else, but suddenly they no longer seem so cool. They are things that happen.
I’ll give you some advice: writer’s block doesn’t exist. Do you know why I don’t decide on any of those ideas? Because deep down, the problem is usually me. I don’t feel like writing, I have a lot of work, or I just have other things on my mind.
Have you ever gotten stuck in the middle of a novel? When that happens, it is not that you lack ideas, it is that your brain, which usually opts for the easy way, is not in the work of pulling the car. The central part of the novel, that valley in which nothing seems to be happening, is boring to him and he does not feel like crawling through the mud with you.
Unless you have a cat sitting on your keyboard, writer’s block doesn’t exist. When you have no ideas, write anyway.
Write a page or two of shit. Sit down, open a new document and fill out two pages of “I don’t know what the hell to write.” Like you’re Jack Torrance in The Shining.
Write even if you don’t have ideas, or rather, even if you don’t feel like it. Keep your fingers moving? Don’t worry too much about grammar or syntax. You’re filling up the writing bucket, so just let yourself go. What you write will not matter too much, as long as you are writing.
Look for new ideas
Buckets, unless they’re magic, don’t fill up on their own. The first of the cubes that I have mentioned is that of ideas and these do not come alone. The visit of the muse is one of those myths about writers. One especially annoying.
Ideas do not come to you like tongues of fire on your forehead. If you want, you can believe that the entire Harry Potter novel appeared to Rowling in a fit of inspiration, in the same way that you can believe in Santa Claus and the Magi.
Ideas are shy and elusive creatures. One has to always be ready, net in hand, ready to catch them as soon as they pass. Have you ever had a brilliant idea and thought “I’ll write it down later”? Do you remember what happens when you want to write it down? Exact. That is no longer there. And if it is, it is only the parched shell of what was at first.
If you are lucky enough to have an idea brush its wings against the edges of your consciousness, you better stop what you are doing and write it down. Or say goodbye to her. Although some ideas visit us that way, the most normal thing is that you have to go hunting them, net in hand. If you want to write a book but have no ideas, do something, don’t just sit there staring at a blank page. You will never find inspiration there. Nor will you do it by regretting it.
Don’t stare at a blank page, you won’t find inspiration there. Get out of the house, take a walk, read or watch an interesting TV series. Look for inspiration.
Go get some inspiration. One of the best ways to find inspiration is to read. The books are full of stories, characters, and anecdotes. In my case, last year I did not read much and it was a disastrous year in terms of ideas. This year, which I have read a lot, I have written down many new ideas in my notebooks and almost daily I find others.
But do not lock yourself in literature. Fill your bucket from all sources. Movies, series and music are sources of inspiration. Don’t overlook them. You will also do well to leave the house, go for a walk or a run.
What if all else fails?
So no problem. I have spent more than a year without writing anything relevant. It is normal. Creative lows are normal. The world will not end. No one will mess with you – especially since no one expects anything from you. Take it easy. It will return, it always returns. That is our curse.
Sometimes you don’t write. Neither do me. We all have a job to attend to, there will be seasons that you will have more tasks to deliver or that you will have more responsibilities, more stress, that you will be tired, low on health or that you will have other personal problems that will absorb most of your time and energy.
You cannot control the life around you. What you can control is your dedication and effort. There are a million blogs for writers that can tell you how to write a book, but only you can decide if it is the best time to do it, if you have ideas, strength and if you are going to be able to commit.
The only way to learn how to write a book is by ghost writing company. And the only way to do it is by finding an idea and working on it.