If you are struggling to come up with ideas, or the right idea, there’s one tool I use to get closer to understanding what I really want. Sometimes it can generate ideas, other times it can refine them, and other times it can help me decide between them.
This tool is a constant sense of self-exploration, looking inward and examining my feelings and preferences with as little external influence as possible.
Ask yourself what you like to read and watch—then ask yourself what are your favorite parts? Which books would you reread in their entirety, and which would you just skim to your favorite parts? Which parts or plot twists or clichés make you groan and roll your eyes and even give up reading? Which characters do you fall in love with, and which do you barely tolerate? Which books catch your eye at the bookstore or library—and which do you actually take home to read?
For theme, ask yourself what you believe in—what makes you passionate? What do you think would make humanity better? What makes it worse? What do people do wrong, or have done wrong in the past (perfect villain material right there)? When a controversial subject or event occurs, which side are you on—and what is the other side thinking and feeling? Though the key is to understand your own feelings and passions here, giving the other side a thorough and understanding exploration can deepen your ‘villainous’ material into more than caricature or obnoxious rhetoric.
When you do write, ask yourself what do you enjoy writing? Where does your imagination linger as you create? Which parts do you look forward to, and which parts do you slog through? What things are you excited to share with others? When you envision writing something, what are you really imagining—the content, the writing itself, or what other people might think of it?
And lastly, the hardest thing is to really dig into your own psychology, but when it comes to writing, I think it’s the most important. Why are you hesitating to write? What would you rather be doing instead? Why does this or that idea appeal to you—is it for yourself, or for other people? Where is your desire to create really coming from, what does it want, and how might it be satisfied in the best way?
For example, I’ve been struggling recently with an idea that I’ve long wanted to write, but somehow can’t. I began to ask myself why I wanted to write it so badly… and after some digging, realized that in reality I was proud of the idea and wanted to show it off—but perhaps that’s not enough to actually write it. I’m still considering options there, but knowing that it might just be my inner ego and not my muse that loves this idea, I’m able to gain a bit of distance from it and consider other paths and other ideas.
So next time you’re struggling, consider looking within… Perhaps the muse isn’t cooperating because you just don’t know her well enough yet.