(Editor’s Note: Some of you have reached out to BEST and expressed an interest in sharing your story through the written word. Writer, BEST guest blogger and brain injury survivor, Isaac Peterson, has created a writing series offering tips and strategies to do just that. Here is the latest in the series on inspired writing. To see a catalog of all of Isaac’s articles, please click here).
One thing I think pretty much everyone who has ever written has had to come to grips with at some time or other is coming up with new ideas. I know I sure have had to deal with it–what do you do when the ideas just won’t come?
So far, I’ve been able to come up with subjects, but sometimes I just kind of sit and stare at the computer screen. And often, after I’ve written something, I feel a kind of anxiety because I worry that I will never have another idea. But eventually (so far), that feeling doesn’t last and I do come up with something. And every once and a while, what I come up with is pretty good.
The problem is that you really can’t control when you have inspirations. Inspiration isn’t something you can turn on or off–it’s either there or it isn’t.
The other problem is I can’t tell you how to be inspired. But I can tell you about a recent inspiration I had and about a technique I know that has worked for me.
Last week I told my editor and good friend, Kim, that I was feeling blocked. The place where my ideas live was just empty. Kim gave me some suggestions for topics, one of which was to write about finding new passions after a brain injury. Part of what she described was how sometimes people with brain injuries “…discover something new that they enjoy doing or learning about. Many times, it’s things that they never even thought of before brain injury.”
I thought about it a little, but found myself with nothing to say on the subject. But I kind of kept it in the back of my mind.
A couple of nights ago I was out for a walk and Poco’s song, Pickin’ Up the Pieces came to mind. I hadn’t heard that song in ages, but there it was in my mind and it wouldn’t go away. I thought about it for a minute and thought about how the band Buffalo Springfield fell apart and how two of the members held on, brought in some new members, and became Poco.
I thought about how those guys picked up the pieces and came up with something new. I always thought Pickin’ Up the Pieces was a great album title because it symbolized how they reformed, with a new direction.
And there, I had the inspiration for a new piece. I took Kim’s idea and turned it into how people with traumatic brain injuries can pick up the pieces and move forward.
I think I know how I set myself up to have that inspiration. I’ve read about the following technique a few times. The only place I specifically remember reading about is was in a book called Psycho-Cybernetics, written by Maxwell Maltz.
From what I remember, he advised that people can kind of jump start their creativity just following a couple of simple steps:
First, you really focus very hard on the problem, really agonize over it.
And then forget about it. I think he advocated something like telling yourself before you go to sleep that when you wake up, you will have the solution. And then just forget about it.
I believe that he explained that what you are doing is feeding the problem to your inner mind, deep down where your natural creativity is. You really have no influence over how that part of your mind works, you just trust that it will.
I know that sounds simple, but I believe in the technique. I don’t even think about it anymore, but I have seen it work for me, time and time again. I think that process was what allowed me to take Kim’s suggestion and turn it into something that worked for me. I don’t do the bed time programming; I just believe that eventually the idea will come.
You can’t force inspiration; you must allow it to work. It comes at its own pace, but I do believe you can help it along. It seems to come when you aren’t really thinking about it. Staying focused on the problem seems to push the solution away, but not thinking about it seems to free up space for the solution to come.
If any of this makes any sense to you, I hope you will try it. And I hope it gives you a way to get through those times when you are stuck for something to write.
Let’s see…. What to write about next….
Isaac Peterson grew up on an Air Force base near Cheyenne, Wyoming. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, he embarked on a career as an award-winning investigative journalist and as a semi-professional musician in the Twin Cities, the place he called home on and off for 35 years. He also doesn’t mind it at all if someone offers to pick up his restaurant tab. Peterson also welcomes reader comments. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.