Today’s post is by author Antwan Crump.
Stuck in a rut? Writer’s block got you down? Feel like you’ve hit an artistic plateau? These are all good signs of burgeoning career.
Though the problem may seem unsolvable, rest assured that with determination and knowledge of your craft, the problem is only temporary. At times, the solution lies in simply broadening your focus.
Having a firm understanding of this can not only save you countless hours—of pointless toiling over the keyboard—but also help you to gain control over the momentum of your creativity.
Search for Inspiration outside Your Genre
As a writer, you’ve no doubt found (or are at least on the path to discovering) your voice. That’s amazing. Some people go their entire lives unable to do more than imitate others. Bravo.
It’s no light task finding a uniqueness to call your own. For some, it may require a little longer to develop a potent voice. That shouldn’t discourage those still in their larval stage. If that’s you, my hope is this advice may help cut down on some of your learning time.
The issue with your voice arises when you lock into your niche genre and have written to the extent that your well of creativity begins to dry up. Inevitably, some moments of writer’s block will take hold and, after some time meandering, you will begin to search high and low for inspiration.
The pitfall here is that many people tend to search within their given genre. Ergo, fantasy writers read fantasies, horror writers read horrors, thriller writers read thrillers, etc. Do not follow this route. It’s a rookie mistake.
When you search within your own genre, you will discover that many of the things that you’ll take in are things you’ve already studied (and are likely pretty good at). Sure, you may pick up some grammatical and structural ideas that help you to improve. That’s great! However, you’re creatively stifling yourself.
One of the worst things that a writer can do is mentally pigeonhole himself. It’s akin to standing in the center of an empty room screaming and hearing your own echo reverberate back to you. (Fun, but there is no progress to be had there.)
You must learn to seek out inspiration in places that are unfamiliar and a bit uncomfortable. There are several ways to do this, but they all boil down to this one thing you must do: search beyond your comfort zone.
Read Things You Normally Wouldn’t
Read something that you would never think to read. I—a fiction writer— tend to consume mass amounts of news, nonfiction, anything as dissimilar as possible to what I create. Doing this allows for a different voice and point of view to permeate through the psyche. It also gives the part of your brain that creates the (likely) much-needed rest it deserves.
You can imagine my library consists of mostly fiction (Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the like). What I found was that the inspiration I’d garnered through these amazing authors faltered when it came time to develop worlds and characters of my own (beyond their initial influence).
After some time in the literary black hole, I decided to take some advice given to me from an old college professor. I read an autobiography. Ever the stubborn student, I ensured it was an author that I admired. The book? Stephen King’s On Writing—you may have heard of it.
Aside from the writing advice, the honesty and earnestness in which he shared his life’s story moved me in a way no fiction had. Suddenly, I was able to access these corridors that had previously been shut off to me.
Though I initially saw fiction as a way to escape from reality, I was then able to see it as a way to connect to it, while remaining true to my voice. My style, my characters, my stories—all now had new purpose and were born from an improved perspective. Writer’s block cured.
I’ve been reading almost exclusively outside my genre ever since, with tremendous critical result and to unprecedented artistic self-satisfaction.
Keep in mind that this method is not ironclad. For some, inspiration can come from beyond the page. My point to you is that, when in a creative rut, seek foreign outlets.
By infusing your mind with some outsider information, you can trigger deep-seated inspiration that you may not have even known was there. Excavate patiently and expertly—you may surprise yourself.
Never forget: time away from actively creating is an important part of creating. Not to mention that stepping out of the bubble is just generally healthy.
Antwan Crump is a novelist, essayist, and poet from NYC who is currently working on his debut novel Becoming Utopia. He regularly shares writing advice with a humorous twist via his blog. To learn more about Antwan, as well as his past and upcoming works, visit him at his website here.