It happens to all of us at some point. We sit before the blank computer screen, waiting for inspiration to strike. And we sit. And sit. Then we get up and grab some Double-stuff Oreos to dunk in milk to make the sitting more enjoyable. But it doesn't help us come up with an idea, not one little bit.
Sometimes we resort to idea-generating devices, and some work better than others. I return to Ray Bradbury's excellent Zen in the Art of Writing in the chapter titled, 'Run Fast, Stand Still, or, the Thing at the Top of the Stair, or, New Ghosts from Old Minds. He suggests using word association to "Be blown up , as it were, by your own delights and despairs." (pg. 15). He reflected on his past and made lists of nouns that surfaced in his memories - a sort of free-flowing association. From these he wrote authentic stories that were his alone.
I also found a website called The Thousand Word Project from Bates College Museum of Art which is an educational tool to use artwork to improve writing skills Here . On this site are interesting videos of artists who discuss the creative process and foster creativity in writing. It also offers this wonderful word list program called Wordle which makes my noun list even more inspiring and useful. You simply copy and paste a selection in the box or create your own random word list of your own. You can even adjust the font or color, or select 'randomize' for interesting variations. Then you can print the list or upload it to a forum. Here's mine.
It's a fun tool, and delving into our past greatly enhances our writing. Mr. Bradbury moves on from pleasant childhood memories to what fears molded him. Our fears can powerfully affect the trajectory of our story. He tells of waking in the night with a powerful need to use the restroom but fearing to walk down the hall with the stairs that led to the attic where The Thing waited at the top. He ends the chapter: "I leave you now at the bottom of your own stair, at half after midnight, with a pad, a pen, and a list to be made." (pg. 28)
Is there anything you can share with us from your fears list? I, for one, would use these words about the basement: damp, musty, cool, workshop, sharp tools, scents of Tide and machinery oil, wall of canned vegetables and fruits, creepy, door that leads to coal bin which we were forbidden to open.
Have you made word lists to mine your life for topics? What works for you?