The Write Idea: Part Two

Last time I spoke about keeping hold of ideas, backing up and not updating your iPhone. This time, I want to share a brilliant trick for what to do when inspiration eludes you. This, I will be honest and own up to, was not my idea. It came from a colleague who is also a writer. It wasn’t his idea either. That is the beauty in how writing works: we share and we steal and everyone wins.

The technique is called clustering, and I hadn’t heard it before, but it really is useful when you can’t get started.


1. Think of a word.

Any word. If you’re really in that desperate, can’t-think-of-anything-at-all place, open a book and pick the first word your finger lands on.


2. Think of everything that you associate with that word.

One thing or twenty, just write what comes into your head. Then, pick one of the words you’ve just thought of to focus on next.


3. Think of everything that you associate with the next word.

You’re maybe starting to get the idea here. Basically, you keep building until all of these words start to merge together and prick at whatever germ of inspiration was sleeping inside your brain.


4. Mix it up.

There are versions of this. Instead of using words, you can start with a character name and write down character traits. Then, from your character traits, pick one and list reasons they have them. From those reasons, write a list of defining life events. You could build a whole book this way.


Ideas are flighty and precious and sometimes hard to come by. And, with NaNoWriMo here, maybe this has helped a little!


Helen Dring is a fiction writer from Liverpool, England. She is studying for an MA in Creative Writing and is currently writing her first novel. She likes fairy tales, ghost stories and modern history.

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