Don’t Panic If You Run Out of Ideas

Rage at me all you want, but I don’t believe in writer’s block

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Even though I , I love to write about writing. I don’t write about writing because I think I know more than another writer, but because I like to wallow in the pain and discomfort of the writing process with others who feel the same. Sometimes I like to celebrate the high points with the same group of people. I figure if I do it enough, I’ll come up with answers and can share them with a whole new group of writers.

For example, I took a mental health day off yesterday because, as often happens to me, I ran out of medication. A combination of not having a car, the pharmacy not stocking my drugs, and having a zero balance in the bank account made is so I didn’t have my all-important antipsychotic for a few days. And while the level of the drug in my system most likely hasn’t dropped enough to give me that much trouble, my mind makes it a point to create problems for me.

My brain will take my moment of weakness and bombard me with voices and noise so that all I can do is lay in bed with a pillow over my head and weep.

I got my medication late last night, and by this morning, I had recovered enough to sit at my desk and write. But, my brain is like an empty battlefield — the dead and dying ideas are lying about, and the silence is deafening. I’ve spent the last hour wracking my brain to come up with something worthwhile to write about and publish.

No new ideas were popping in my head, no matter what I did to dislodge them. I finally decided to write about the very problem I was facing, but it was a process to settle on this idea finally.

Here was the process:

“Do you have an idea log? Because you should have an idea log.”

For quite some time, even before I started taking writing seriously, I’ve kept a running list of the ideas that come to me at the strangest times. I use Evernote, just because it’s so easy for me to keep it open on my laptop or phone and type out ideas as they come to me.

Whatever program you use to collect the ideas, make sure you make it a habit. It is almost second nature to me now. And don’t curate your ideas before you put them in your log. Keep them as raw as you can while still being able to understand what they mean years from now. Don’t do what I did one time and write:

“The blue thing that puts the stuff in the other blue thing!”

That won’t work.

Check Your Drafts

Since I started publishing on Medium over a year ago, I started putting ideas that I know would make great stories as drafts. Sometimes it’s a headline, but other times I will save my research and links, so it’s easier to pick up where I left off.

For a long time, my drafts on Medium were a place where ideas go to die, and I never looked at them. I had something like 600 drafts and they were adding up every day. Now, as part of my weekly routine, I go through them for inspiration and if I see something that has been there collecting dust for too long, I delete it.

Use your drafts.

Graze the Timeline

Now, when I tell you to go through the list of stories on your timeline, I’m not telling you to steal ideas word-for-word. What I am telling you is to look at headlines and read stories that look interesting to spark your own ideas.

I do this every day because I set aside time to read anyway. It’s an easy thing to click over to “New Story” and create a draft or add another line to a document in Evernote. Remember that there are rarely new ideas, just other writers take on topics that have been covered many times. But, that doesn’t give you the right to steal their whole take and present it as your own. Mold the idea, come up with your angle, and write from your own experience.

Plenty of ideas to go around, people!

I Don’t Believe in Writer’s Block

In my case, I don’t give myself the excuse of writer’s block. I know if I try hard enough, I will eventually come up with a great idea. It’s up to you if you want to use the excuse, but a lot of times, I see people who don’t want to put in the work to find new ideas. They expect their muse will hit them in the back of the head with a good idea every time, and it doesn’t always work like that.

Sometimes you have to push yourself.

Yes, it takes some work to come up with new ideas and material every day. But, I believe that it should be very rare that you get stumped. The more you write, the more ideas you generate. I write daily and almost publish daily and rarely run out of ideas because I am constantly following the process that I outlined above to come up with new ideas.

I put in the work.

I know you are already putting in a lot of work on your writing career, but add a few of these steps to your existing process and you will never again want for another idea.

Have I ever let you down?

This story was not curated. If you write and publish on Medium, you know what that means — a quick death. If not, it just means that it won’t be promoted to other readers on Medium.

But it doesn’t always have to be like this, and this is where I add value to your life. It works like this:

We all write free content for Medium. They don’t pay for it. The money we pay to be members is more than enough to pay the writers who are making money. In return for us writing millions of words of free content and paying the writers who engage with the readers (us again), Medium forbids us from adding any more than a simple text link to the bottom of posts to promote ourselves.

If you do everything right, you get curated.

I have no problem with that. I’ve been with Medium for over a year-and-a-half, and I absolutely fricking love that they gave me a platform to earn and share my writing. I tell everyone I know to join Medium and start writing.

But, if I don’t get curated, my stories die. I don’t earn. The only traffic I get comes in is from Google, and if the people they are sending are not Medium subscribers, I don’t get paid.

But Medium benefits greatly. Every time we bring eyeballs onto the platform, Medium gains authority and in turn, members. They also get income from writers paying them for exposure by featuring them in publications and other places on Medium, even if they aren’t members. It’s a great business model.

I thank Medium for giving me the platform, and I respect them, especially when they curate me and my stories live on.

So Medium, I love you, and if you curate me, I will follow the rules and only put a small text link to my newsletter at the bottom.

But, if I am not curated, I am going to use my work to promote myself and my brand.

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Writer | Essayist | Video Content Creator | Future member of the two-comma club | Dreamer - I am doing it my way and it might take a bit longer. Don't wait up.

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