A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
I always find that I come up with ideas when I’m on holiday. When I’m at home my brain is so caught up with stuff (get the kids to school, clean the kitchen, pay the bills, get groceries, buy the birthday cards, do the laundry, get to the post office, volunteer at school, write that chapter, do those edits, sort the recycling, pick the kids up from school, make dinner, clean the house ….. it’s endless) that the part of my brain that picks up on the inspiration around me, just can’t be heard. Going on holiday silences all the ‘stuff’ and suddenly the ideas start to flow again. If you can’t drop everything and go and holiday (let’s face it, who can?) then can you find another way to take a holiday from the mental clutter that is shutting your inspiration down?
Go for a long daily walk until the peace lets your brain kick back into gear, ask your family to take on some of the labour so you don’t have to think about it, let yourself lie in, daydream, don’t put so much pressure on yourself and you should find that the ideas start to flow again
If that doesn’t work, go back to basics. Read (or reread) a book such as How to Write a Blockbuster by Helen Corner, or Stephen King’s On Writing.
Do some creative writing exercises – a man walks into a room (describe him in great detail), he sits down and says ‘there’s something I have to tell you’ – what does he have to say?
Do mental exercises – think about an issue that concerns you and take that issue to its furthest extremes. For example, what if you’ve been thinking a lot about school shootings – what would a world look like where reaction to school shootings drove the structure of society?
School security has been increased. Kids (for their own safety) are taken away from parents aged five and put into maximum security compounds for their education. Every classroom is on the other side of a metal detector, every day the kids must pass mental health tests. What happens to those who fail (because you can’t be happy all the time, especially if you’re a teenager)? And so on.
If it’s just not coming naturally, then you might have to force it. Take a trip to your local library, or newsagent and get hold of copies of The New Scientist and National Geographic. Take notes of anything that grabs your attention. Write some short stories (500 words – you can force 500 words, can’t you?) based on those ideas. One of your short stories may well grab you by the throat and make you want to lengthen it.
I’m a plotter: This means that before I start actually writing my novel, I have a synopsis, fleshed-out outline, and one paragraph describing each chapter, plus character notes, research notes and aid memorandum such as ‘don’t forget there’s sheep everywhere’ (which I just lifted from the notes I’m writing from at the moment) or ‘rollicking adventure’ which was a big note I had on my wall for Phoenix Rising.
The advantage of plotting is that when you do get the dreaded ‘writers block’ you can power through it. You know what needs to happen in chapter twelve and you just have to make it happen and plough on until that spark comes back. If you have written a chapter that less than shines as a result, you can always go back and fix it later.
If you aren’t a plotter and you’re stuck, then perhaps it would help you to go back and plot out the rest of your book.
You’ve done everything. You’ve got a plot and you’re still blocked. Sometimes there are just things happening in your life that command your mental space. Writing is a creative process and if you don’t have the freedom to give that process space to breathe, then you don’t.
So, give in.
Say to yourself, ‘you know what, I’m not going to write for six weeks’. Give yourself permission to devote your attention to whatever it is that’s demanding it –family, work dramas, illness, school, whatever it is that your mind is telling you to shift focus onto. What you’ll probably find is that as that six weeks passes (assuming you were not dealing with something huge like a bereavement) your creativity will start to blossom again.