Amanda Fleet is a physiologist by training and a writer at heart. She spent 18 years teaching science and medicine undergraduates at St Andrews University, Scotland, but now uses her knowledge to work out how to kill people (in her books!).
She was involved with two Scottish Government funded projects, working in Malawi. While there, she learned about the plight of the many street children in Malawi and helped to set up a Community Based Organisation that works with homeless Malawian children to support them through education and training. It was this experience that helped to shape the Malawian aspects in her first novel, The Wrong Kind of Clouds.
Amanda lives in Scotland with her husband, where she can be found writing, walking and running.
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Her website: www.amandafleet.co.ukAmanda Fleet
We all know the theory. You have a great idea for a book; you sit down, flesh out the characters, write notes on the plot. You may even get as far as scene notes and have started writing it…
…and then, nothing. You sit down in that precious slot of time you managed to put aside to finish Chapter X, you pull up what you’ve written before, you crack open your notes for the scene you thought you’d be writing and nothing comes into your head. Well, nothing helpful. What probably comes into your head is that the dishwasher needs loading, the kids have a play you need to make a costume for, the business deal that’s almost signed, sealed and delivered might go wrong tomorrow… what doesn’t enter your head is anything even remotely helpful for finishing the chapter!
So, what do you do? Here are my top 5 tips for how to get at least something down on the page when your brain is refusing to co-operate.
Get rid of the noise in your head
For many of us, there is a constant chatter going on in our heads – reminding us that we still haven’t booked the car in for service, that we need to buy milk, that a million and one things need to be remembered. If you’re staring at a blank screen, with your head full of chatter, you need to silence all that noise. Grab a pen and paper and write it all down. Get it all out of your head, secure in the knowledge that you won’t forget any of it, because you wrote it all down.
Head still full? Keep writing – get it all out. Once you’ve cleared your head, you may well find that your brain will be able to work creatively again.
Other kinds of lists
Okay, you’ve cleared your head and your brain is still refusing to co-operate. Now what? Try a few minutes of lists. Maybe start with occupations. List as many occupations as you can in two minutes – just say them out loud, write them down, whatever. Just think of as many as you can. Now think of places for two minutes. Once you’ve done that, think of things that could go wrong in your day – things as small as you can’t find your car keys so you’re running late, to as large and unlikely as a plane coming down on the road ahead of you.
Now, use the last occupation, the last place, and the last disaster you thought of, and spend four minutes creating a small story that incorporates all three of them. By the end of that ten minutes, your brain should be into creative problem solving mode and coming up with the goods for that scene or chapter you’re stuck on.
Just write anything
You can’t edit a blank page. However little you think the creativity juices are flowing, write something! It may be terrible. It may not have the zip and spirit that you were hoping for, but it’s something. You got your characters to where they needed to be. You can always come back and make the scene better when inspiration has returned.
Write something different
Your brain has seized up over the scene you’re meant to be working on. Okay. Pick another scene, later in the book to work on. Or write a short story. Or do some notes for another book altogether. Let your brain freewheel on a different project.
You’ve tried all of those things and still nothing. What’s my last tip?
Describe how awful your writers’ block is
Pin down just how sluggish your brain feels, how infuriated you are that the words won’t come, how annoyed with your characters you are for not talking to you… describe just how dreadful you feel in exquisite detail. Not only might it make you feel better, you could also end up with a great description that you can use somewhere!
So, there you go. Those are my top tips for what to do when inspiration just doesn’t seem to strike. It hits all of us at some time or another, but the good news is that it doesn’t last forever, and there are ways to coax your brain back to being creative. Good luck with your writing!