Running on Fumes

Has your creative energy run out? After a strong opening, you may find yourself floundering. Some writers refer to this as the muddle of the middle. Others simply feel stuck. They call it writer’s block. What’s really happening is you’ve taken off like a rocket and now your creative energy is running on fumes. So, how do you re-energize?

Personally, I like to take a break and read or listen to music to to refill the creative well. Sometimes I go for a walk or a swim. These provide a rest for my brain, but somehow ideas emerge. I’ve even used housecleaning to stir up a “need” to return to my desk and write. (I really dislike housekeeping, so I think I “daydream” while I’m working and that triggers ideas.) But, another way to regain writing momentum is to consider how you might twist up your plot.

Here are a few tricks to help you break the block or get unstuck:

  • What is your character’s greatest fear? How might he or she suddenly come face-to-face with that fear? How does he or she react?
  • If you’ve written yourself into a corner so to speak, use it to your advantage. How will your protagonist get him or herself out of a tight spot? What action will he or she take? What tough decision will he or she need to make?
  • How does he or she react when another character calls him or her a nasty name, or simply uses the wrong name?
  • Send your character somewhere new. (Change the scene.) Keep in mind that this action can often lead to another problem. Perhaps he or she misses the train, or ends up in the wrong place. NOW what does he or she do to correct this “temporary problem”? Such events keep the plot twisting and turning, which keeps the reader interested.

Notice that ACTION and REACTION are key in the above suggestions. Your main character needs to DO something toward solving a problem or reaching a goal.

Next time you feel your creative energy begin to lag, take a few minutes to toy with the character and the story situation. Shake things up and see how that twists up the plot. This will keep you—and the reader—more engaged.

Drawing from the Creative Well

Both my writing and teaching draw from a large well of creative energy. Grading papers and editing or technical writing drain it. Some writing sessions energize me while others deplete my creativity a bit. (It depends on the project and where I’m at in my writing process.)

I always seek activities and tasks that refill the creative well. Reading books, watching movies, discussions with friends over coffee, and attending conferences and workshops all fill the well. So do my “productive procrastination” tasks. (These are non-writing creative endeavors such as creating character trees or scene collages, painting my “inspiration angels,” or cooking.) Different things fill the well in smaller amounts but they still help refill it.

I’ve had to work hard to see some events as beneficial to refilling the energy, such as the reaction of the children at the library after a story time, seeing things click with my students in creative writing classes, good editorial news (for myself, writing friends, or students), or discovering support in unusual sources.

Whether you realize it or not, you are doing things that also refill your creative energy or help you feel motivated to write. If you focus on what you enjoy about your writing and the success in small accomplishments, your creative well will replenish itself, too.