Writing Discoveries: You Don’t Just Run Out of Ideas

Yesterday I started plotting work on a new novel idea I had. This comes after I’ve finished and have begun edits on a couple of short stories, scribbled out a bad-to-okay middle grade manuscript, and am waiting to hear back on queries on another novel.

Sometimes, after I finish writing something, I feel like, “Whelp, what do I do now?” The story has poured out of me, and for a little while, it seems like there’s nothing left. After sending off my most polished manuscript for querying, I had no idea what to do with myself, and needed the motivation of my writing group to first polish up old stories and then, finally, begin something new.

Most recently, I tried to plot out a different novel idea, but even though I researched elements I wanted to include and wrote notes on some character personalities, I couldn’t get more than a few key characters and the beginning of a plot. Not enough to really dive in, since I’d hit a wall so fast and hard I’d probably lose a tooth, and I decided that this idea still needs time to thicken and stew.

So was I out of ideas? Nope. One of my favorite websites, The Oatmeal, has a great comic about creating content. While he’s specifically talking about stuff on the Internet, much of it pertains to writing or creating in general. Particularly relevant to this post are two panels about midway through, where he points out that after every comic, he feels like he’s got nothing left. But, he says, “Idea generation needs to be like a river…Fresh input flows in and out, and there is always change.” New things are always coming at you, and if writing or creating is what you really want to do, you will find inspiration and stumble upon something new to write.

It’s not always convenient — my new idea burst into my brain while I was listening to a lecture on CD, driving on the highway alone, with no one to dictate to, forcing me to repeat sentences and force some level of memorization before it drifted off — if you’re waiting, if you’re open, if you’re ready to scribble them down.

Do you ever feel like you’ve run out of ideas? Do they eventually come to you or is it a struggle to move onto the next project?

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