Are You Pushing Away Ideas — and Work — by Trying Too Hard?
I recently had a mentoring client (who I love…you know I love you, lady!) who told me she’d been thinking about a particular article idea for a week. She’d been to a gift shop in a small town that drew hundreds of visitors every weekend, which is pretty amazing. How could she turn that into an article?
She turned this idea every which way with no success…and it was driving her nuts not to be able to use it!
I’ve seen this a lot: Writers who find an idea and hang onto it like a dog hangs onto a bone. Are you one of them?
Focus on the input, not the output.
My secret to boosting creativity has been to focus on the input, not the output. So, for example, I read widely and try to have different, interesting experiences.
You need to feed your brain so that it has something to work with. If you have enough different input, you’ll come up with inspired combinations.
For example, I was checking out magazine headlines and noticed that certain women’s magazines always had either “diet” or “orgasm” on the cover (or both). I noted this with interest and then let it go, and later it popped into my head: How about an article called “The Better Orgasm Diet,” on foods that boost your libido?
The idea sold to Redbook, and a news station later did a story based on this article.
Go wide, not deep.
in my recent post on what to do with an idea once you have it, I talked about taking one idea and spinning it in different ways to come up with salable angles. This is a great way to take something meh and turn it into a sale.
But if you’re the type of writer who obsesses over coming up with just the right slant, you may want to try going wide instead of deep.
By that I mean, instead of focusing all your attention on one idea and using brute force to spin angles out of it, take in as much information as you can from varied sources and let your subconscious do the work. Again, it’s all about the input.
The image I have of these stuck writers is of them being surrounded by a cloud of great ideas, but having laser-like focus that illuminates only a tiny sliver of the cloud.
Want to go wide? Read magazines from a different part of the newsstand than you normally browse. Pick up a graphic novel (I recommend the Bakuman series). Watch YouTube videos and click on the links for recommended watching.
Don’t worry about gleaning ideas from these sources. Just take them in and let your subconscious do the work.
Take the easy route.
I told my client that she needs to find a sense of ease in her work…which is something my own life coach taught me.
If things happen only with great strain on your part, then you need to find a new way to work. Grasping, straining, and attaching only make your writing work difficult.
What comes easy for you in terms of writing? How can you do more of that and less of what you find difficult? After all, if something is easy for you, you can do more of it faster…the perfect way to earn more as a writer (or in any career).
I asked my client to find ways to become more playful in her work. For example, she plans to buy the classic Whack on the Side of the Head creativity card deck, which offers different exercises to help you get unstuck.
She could also try those old tricks you’ve probably heard of but never tried: brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand, take a different route home from work, and so on.
This is all about giving your mind permission to wander and play. It’s during these unstuck moments that inspiration tends to blossom.
How about you: what do you do when you feel stuck on some aspect of your writing career? Let us know in the comments below! [lf]