Sometimes, as a creative-type person, you are going to realize that you have no ideas.
And, when you’re starting out, it’s easy to convince yourself that you’ve run out. You’ve tapped your well. You’ve emptied yourself, and now you’ve got nothing, and now you’re doomed to be a creative zombie, either shuffling forward for eternity making the same content over and over or sitting in place staring at the empty barrel you used to scrape for ideas.
This is not generally, in my experience, how it works. I think it’s important to point this out because it seems like maybe a lot of people think that’s how it works, and it seems to become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. So: Stop it.
You’re not out of ideas forever. Ideas are the poop of the engaged mind. You’re just digesting things. The poop will happen later. And, when it does, it will be glorious. The low-flow toilets of your audience’s minds will be clogged, and you will – uh, single-handedly drum up tons of business demand for mental plumbers and Drano (DVD box sets and single malt scotch, respectively).
Continuing this metaphor, films and television series about creative people are essentially scat porn: The audience can enjoy the process without having to smell it. The portrayal of creative work is usually one where the artist just looking for one good idea and, having found that idea through some contrived series of events, the proceed to make their thing. Apparently art is really easy if you have an idea, which certainly raises the question of why most people are kind of bad at it but okay let’s not worry about that.
So: Basically everything I just said is ridiculous bullshit, but that’s how it goes when you don’t have any ideas. You write one thing, and some obscure connection suggests itself. You follow it, you pull the thread, until you get somewhere else. And so on, and so forth, until you find somewhere new and interesting. The reason why writer’s block happens is because we’ve been told that ideas are where creativity starts. Ideas are not a prerequisite for creation. Ideas are the skeleton of a piece, and though sometimes making a skeleton, layering organs and muscles on top, and then coating it with skin is a good way to make a man, sometimes you just gotta start with a finger and work your way out; to the palm; to the wrist; to the arm; to the chest; to the heart.
Don’t wait for ideas. Don’t play the lottery. Don’t hold out for a hero, don’t stall until your ship comes in. Grab hold of whatever you can and make it manifest however you can, and navigate your way by the lay of the land you’ve made so far.
Did you think an idea was something so small you could contain it?
Would any such idea, small and simple and succinct and easy to say, be worth the energy that art demands?
I don’t think so.