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You’ve finally carved out a spare moment to write. You open up a blank document, and set your fingers on the keys. But then nothing comes.

You check Facebook thinking you might find something to inspire you there. No luck.

You wonder if your muse is hiding under the stack of dirty dishes, so you clean every bit of grime you can find but still come up empty.

You’re at a loss for ideas, and your writing time is dwindling quickly.

It may be too late for this session, but grab a notebook. Between this writing time and next (aka tomorrow), explore some of these ideas.

1. Look Around

As we head into the holiday season, it’s likely we’re all going to be traveling at some point or another. Instead of pacing back and forth across the airport or diving right into that bestseller, take a moment to notice the people around you. They may be the protagonist and antagonist of your bestseller.

See that Mom and Dad with their toddler in the stroller? What’s their story? Who are they going to see?

See the salesman running through the terminal? Who’s he in a rush to get home to?

If you’re traveling by car, look at the family in the minivan next to you. How did they decide to watch that movie? How much stuff is in their trunk, and who’s going to call for a potty break first?

2. Pay Attention

Author Ron Rash said his New York Times bestselling novel Serena began with the image a confident, tall, strong woman on a large white horse. He saw details of the scenery, the horse, and woman but didn’t know that meant. He just knew he couldn’t shake the image from his mind, so he wrote about it. That woman became the star of her own movie last month.

3. Day Dream

Close your eyes for a minute. What do you see?

4. Change the Scenery

The little boy in that picture could be practicing piano in his living room. He could be practicing in a concert hall. But instead he’s outside. Maybe his fingers work better there. I don’t know.

Maybe your fingers work better in a coffee shop. Maybe they prefer the library. The river. The floor.

Try sitting someplace different or in a different position and see what happens.

5. Play What If

What if the referee didn’t show up to the basketball game because he’s been murdered? What if the airplane lands in a different destination than expected? What if the turkey burns the house down?

6. Read

Allowing inspiration to come from books or movies isn’t plagiarism. Watch or read the scene then hit “pause” and let your own creativity take over rather than following the established plot-line. Think about how you would have crafted the storyline differently, and then run with it.

7. Use Your Own Life

If your family’s like mine, you’ve got some interesting characters. You’ve got some crazy stories. You’ve got some moments of “Is this really happening?” You can’t make up those things. Borrow them from real life (just change enough details to protect the guilty).

8. Revisit Your Favorite Characters

Maybe they’re your own or maybe they’re someone else’s, but we’ve all got favorite characters. Put them together in a box and see what happens. Trust them to come up with a clever story all on their own. You just get to be their scribe.

9. Just Start Writing

With your fingers on the keys, just start moving them. Sometimes words will come out and sometimes they won’t. Eventually something worth saving will appear. It just might take awhile.

Whatever you do just don’t keep staring at that blinking cursor. It’s a demon who whispers lies.

How do you find ideas when the well seems to run dry?


Use one of these ideas to freewrite for 15 minutes. When you’re done, you know the drill, post it in the comments and comment on a few other practices.

Katie Axelson
Katie Axelson
Katie Axelson is a writer, editor, and blogger who's seeking to live a story worth telling. You can find her blogging, tweeting, and facebook-ing.
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