Getting Started and Getting Un-Stuck

Sometimes, after finishing a story, it can be difficult to start your next project.  Sometimes it’s a matter of losing momentum, and sometimes you just don’t have any ideas and need a prompt to get you started, even if what you end up writing next has nothing at all to do with whatever the prompt was.  Writing prompts don’t have to dictate what you write–they’re just a mechanism for dislodging whatever idea has been stuck in a dark corner of your brain where you can’t see it.

While browsing Boing Boing the other day, I ran across what I think makes for a great source of inspiration.  Nine-eyes is a blog devoted to striking images from Google Maps Street-View, and it serves up some great inspiration.  In my first undergrad writing class, my first semester of college, my professor had each of us look through a book of photographs of America from mid-nineteen-fifties (or so, my memory’s a little fuzzy on the details now) and use a picture that we selected as the jumping-off point for our fiction piece, and I’ve gotten a fair bit of mileage out of that technique since, so I’m glad to have found a great source of evocative images online that’s always serving up something interesting and new.

That guy, with the pan over his face. He must have a story to tell.

Of course sometimes you’re not stuck on a blank page but stuck in the middle of a story and feeling like you don’t know where to go.  Well, there’s an app for that.

No, seriously, there is.  Actually, there’s a deck of cards which has been transformed into apps and websites.  Oblique Strategies is a deck of cards created by Brian Eno wherein each card contains an aphorism to get us creative types to do a bit of lateral thinking to get around our problems, the idea being that when you get stuck, you draw a card at random, and even if you don’t do what the card says, it helps you get your mind un-stuck.  I had never heard of this magical invention until Jeph Jacques, author and artist of Questionable Content, mentioned it during his recent appearance on the (Hugo Award-winning) Writing Excuses podcast.

You can find one online implementation of the Oblique Strategies here, though it is by no means the only place to go.  There are also a number of app implementations on Android (and probably on iOS, too).

So, go out and start something new or find a new way to look at an old problem.  Create!

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About Hilary B. Bisenieks

Hilary B. Bisenieks (Biss-en-yex) n. 1. An author of fact, fancy, and opinion based out of Oakland, CA. 2. A graduate of the Creative Writing program at Warren Wilson college and Mary Robinette Kowal's Short Story Workshop. 3. A man unable to be trusted to update basic biographical information with any regularity. View all posts by Hilary B. Bisenieks

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