How do you go about starting a story when your creative spark has dimmed? Try rubbing two ideas together, like Lynn Sloan did.
By Lynn Sloan
As every fiction writer knows, there comes a moment when the ideas dry up. It’s not that you have no ideas, it’s that none of them are engaging. You try to think. You take a walk. You hang around coffee shops eavesdropping on conversations. Ideas emerge, but each seems clichéd or too thin to support more than a page or someone else already wrote that story. These are dark times in a writer’s life. Are you really a writer if you have nothing to write about? You’ve walked outside, you’ve hung around coffee shops, now you follow other standard advice. You turn to the notes you’ve jotted down on your phone or on scraps of paper or in the journal that you keep, or the journal you meant to keep but you’ve let lapse. Nothing. Or you begin to journal. Each day you write down your thoughts. This is a great strategy to trace your own mental processes, to dig into impressions and feelings that flow ever deeper, and to re-discover how truly generative writing is, but still you find no story spark.
I descended into this sorry state after I completed my first novel, Principles of Navigation. For several years, I’d given everything I had to this work. Draft after draft, figuring out what my story was really about, living with my fractious characters, honing the plot, revising chapters, then the whole manuscript, and in the last months, replacing flat words with more vivid ones, deleting what was unnecessary, moving around subordinate clauses to make sentences that sung, and finally fixing the commas. I, the writer, was exhausted. Even worse, the editor inside me had dominated my thinking for so long, she’d suffocated the creative writer.