Filling the Well

It’s easy for me to urge you to write every day.  But what will you write about?  What to do when the empty void of white space glows on your monitor, inhabited by nothing save a small, blinking cursor?

I’ve gone through times when my mind was teeming with so many characters and story ideas I couldn’t begin to encompass them all.  I scribbled notes for plots and piled them on desk corners.  I filed others in folders and never found a chance to develop them. 

Then I’ve found my imagination as empty as the Sahara.  Oh, a random bit of dialogue or description might wander through my thoughts like a beetle crossing the sand.  But I had nothing to go on.

Years ago, one of my writing teachers told me that if I wanted a long career as a novelist to keep my well filled and never let it go dry.  Until then, I hadn’t realized that a writer is responsible for her own plentifully supplied imagination.

So how to stay inspired?  Some of the following tips may be familiar to you; others may be new.  I’ll be expanding on them in entries to come.

1) Remember that your inner artist is a child.

2) Immerse yourself in films that touch you emotionally.

3) Read constantly. 

4) Find the book that kindled your initial desire to write stories of your own, and read it again.

5) Do exercises that will stretch or challenge your writing skills.

6) Change your commute route and drive along streets that are unfamiliar to you.

7) Travel, even if it’s just a short day trip to a nearby community.

8) Talk to people of different ages and types.

9) Visit museums.

10) Free write or journal.

11) Face your fears.

12) Choose a modern novel that’s very successful and type the first three chapters.


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4 responses to “Filling the Well

  1. Love your suggestions, especially the magical #4! Thanks!

  2. I’ve heard ‘read a lot’ from other authors also, but I’m worried that every time I go to write something of my own, my mind is going to offer up a comparison to something I’ve seen before. I’m already thinking things like, ‘Are you sure that’s not to much like…’, and so on. Could you give your thoughts on this if you have time? Thanks very much! (P.S. I think Neil Gaiman blogged that he doesn’t read any books at all similar to the one he’s currently writing. I still have his Graveyard Book unread on my shelf for the above reason. So sad… 🙂 (and annoying!)

    Nick D.

    • Deb

      Gaiman is right about avoiding books similar to what you’re writing–while you’re writing. As soon as your manuscript is complete, by all means dive in! You have to keep up with your field.

      And THE GRAVEYARD BOOK is his best.


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