Every storyteller eventually comes to a point in their life when they feel like they have nothing more to give. They feel completely drained and totally devoid of new and fresh ideas.
It happens to award-winning authors, journalists, comic book writers, and even screenwriters – and we all know what passes for a good script for movie or TV these days!
It’s not uncommon to feel this way – some of the greatest writers struggled throughout their career to put something meaningful on paper. Ernest Hemingway, Maya Angelou, Neil Gaiman, Pedro Almodovar, and others – they all had days when they stared at a merciless blank page and felt empty.
In an effort to help you fight that and find a great idea that you can mold into a piece of epic writing, we’ve gathered advice from the world’s leading and award-winning screenwriters. Learn what they do when they need to come up with a brilliant idea!
1) If you want to be a writer, write!
… And if you want to be a writer that regularly comes up with great ideas? Write even more! Write when you have something to say; write when you don’t – write even when you have a million other things you would rather be doing.
Brian Koppelman says that inspiration is great but if you don’t write every day how will the muse know where to find you? Take his advice to heart and practice your craft every day – write often and your brain will subconsciously work on new ideas all the time.
2) Sit down and finish the damn thing
Sarah Silverman notes that the biggest mistake most writers make is writing something half-way and then trying to make it better, polish it all up – and that is where they get stuck.
Her advice is: sit down, write, and see things all the way through to the end. You don’t have to write constantly – stop while you’re still on a roll, before you get stuck.
When you sit down to write tomorrow, pick up where you left off, and don’t edit what you’ve written so far. No matter how awful the writing is, at least you’ll get some closure and advance your idea to the end.
3) Learn to let go of your favourite idea
Joss Whedon’s advice for when you get stuck is – get rid of your favorite piece of writing. You know, that scene you’re just so proud of that you’re trying to piece together everything else around it. Just scrap it. Most of the time it’s that one scene; that one chapter that isn’t really working and is holding you back. Get rid of it – if it makes its way back somehow further down the road, great! If not, it didn’t belong there in the first place.
4) Don’t borrow – blatantly steal great ideas
When you think about it, pretty much everything is already said and done. Tarantino tells us not to be afraid to blatantly steal good ideas wherever we see them – whether or not they were stolen depends entirely on what you do with them. Cherry-picking great ideas and making them better than they were is how you create new and riveting works of art – and it mostly makes for a compelling read. If everyone was hung up on originality, literature would end with Shakespeare.
5) Nurture those little nuggets of brilliance
Writers often have a flash of a story – a character, a setting, or a specific situation. Then they start mulling it over, trying to piece things together so that it has a beginning and an end. Almodovar argues against that. According to him, a hint of an idea has to be nurtured straight away before it’s gone or destroyed by overthinking. When you have an outline of an idea sit down and write it. Keep the story short and simply flesh it out; after that, go back in past and write the beginning and try to tie all the loose ends at the finale. Ten pages is usually enough to see if the story has any potential.
6) Keep watching good movies and reading good books
Koppelman believes that writers need to build a repository of great ideas and the only way to do that is to immerse themselves in good writing. Never stop watching good movies; they will serve as an inspiration in the future and you will probably find great bits and pieces in them that you can pinch and rework, making them even better.
7) When all else fails, have fun!
Possibly the best piece of advice comes from Paul Thomas Anderson. For him, it’s all about fun. When you are out of inspiration gather a crew of like-minded people, pick up a camera, and go out and have fun. Shoot whatever you want, wherever you want. Think of crazy plots and crazy situations on the fly and film them. This serves as a great re-energizer and can potentially lead to a great, groundbreaking idea in and of itself.
Keeping you on track …
- Write down each single thought that comes to your mind, transforming your notebook into a treasure chest full of fresh ideas.
- Pull yourself together! Don’t become a giant ball of wuss – bring at least one idea to the end today, not tomorrow.
- Tear your notebook, get rid of what you thought was great and start with another point.
- Steal the idea and raise it – succeed where others have so clearly failed.
- Don’t miss your idea – a feather in the hand is better than a bird in the air.
- Read books, watch movies or follow Charles Bukowski after all.
- Just have some fun turning all your crazy ideas into reality.
BIO: Scott Ragin is a passionate writer who draws the inspiration from something that really means the most to him: his readers. Scott is a content writing expert at Aussiessay. He loves guiding other people through their content writing practice and shares his ideas as a blogger. Feel free to contact him at Facebook.