Do you find yourself stuck when trying to come up with new ideas for your D&D campaigns? Homebrew campaigns are great, but sometimes it can be tough to come up with ideas on the fly. If you’re experiencing writer’s block, don’t worry–you’re not alone.
As a freelance copywriter, and someone who simply enjoys wordcraft, I’ve come up with a few tips to help you get your ideas flowing again.
What is Writer’s Block?
Hey, so quick background for those who haven’t suffered with this condition; what is writer’s block, anyway? In short, it’s when you sit down to write and… nothing. The ideas just don’t come. And even if they do, you can’t seem to get them down on paper (or screen).
And, it’s kind of an interesting dilemma. So, interesting in fact, that there’s quite a body of research out there that tries to explain writer’s block.
Here’s a bit of what I found!
According to some research in the psych field, writer’s block is often caused by psychological conditions such as stress, anxiety, or depression. When you’re feeling stressed or anxious, your mind is focused on other things and it can be tough to concentrate on writing. There’s also the bit about fear of failure, or the need to find perfection in everything you. All of these “fear-based” or “anxiety-like” states of mind can hinder your creative freedom.
(Side note: There’s some interesting evidence of a link between creative types and vulnerability to anxiety)
Depression can also lead to writer’s block because it causes a lack of motivation or interest in activities that used to bring you pleasure. When you’re feeling down, it’s hard to find the energy to write.
While I’m sure there are many other reasons why we have trouble getting words down on a blank page, it comes down to this in my opinion.
We’re afraid of our ideas being judged. Who judges your ideas? Well, you and those who will experience, hear, or–in this case–adventure within your stories, concepts and frankly, the world you’ve created.
For a simple illustration: Ever watch a young child scribble with a crayon? Yes? Notice how they show off their creation to every adult in the room. Looking at the colorful scribble, a child sees fantastical worlds, e.g., flying elephants, dragons, maybe even just a drawing of mommy or daddy. And, yet as an adult, we see an uninterpretable mess…a blank page with something that almost, but not quite resembles whatever that child describes. But, ultimately it’s a kid’s illustration and they have no sense of what is “good or bad”. A child is free.
Without getting into the whole human maturity process, there is a switch that happens in all of us when we realize that there are standards. Yes, standards. And, we irrationally place some of them on ourselves where they do not belong. This is particularly true for the times when we want to (need to) engage with the process of writing creatively.
While I’m not in the position to solve this problem, as it’s a problem as old as the World; I can share a insights I’ve learned along the way in my various professions, and from the depths of my day-to-day thoughts.
Writer’s Block in a Dungeon Master: A Unique Beast
Sure, writer’s block can affect anyone who has to come up with ideas–but I think it’s a special kind of curse for DMs.
Think about it, as a DM you not only have to come up with original content, but you also have to be able to improvise on the fly. If your players decide to go left when you planned for them to go right, you have to be able to come up with something interesting for them to do.
And if you’re experiencing writer’s block, that can be a tall order.
So, what can you do about it?
Well, first of all, it’s important to understand that everyone experiences writer’s block from time to time. Even the most seasoned DMs can find themselves struggling to come up with new ideas. The key is not to let it stop you from writing.
Here are a few tips that might help you get your ideas flowing again:
- Talk to other DMs: One of the best ways to get over writer’s block is to talk to other DMs. Ask them how they come up with new ideas, what resources they use, and what techniques work best for them. Not only will you get some great tips, but you’ll also feel less alone in your struggle.
- Take a break: Sometimes the best way to get over writer’s block is to take a break. Get up and walk around, take a nap, or just step away from your work for a little while. You might find that when you come back, you have a fresh perspective and some new ideas.
- Brainstorm: When all else fails, sit down and brainstorm with yourself or another person. Write down whatever comes to mind, no matter how crazy it sounds. You never know, one of those crazy ideas might just be the spark you need to get your creativity flowing again.
- Use prompts: If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas on your own, try using prompts. There are tons of prompt lists online, or you can come up with your own. Prompts can help you get started, and once you start writing, the ideas will start to flow.
- Just write: Sometimes the best way to overcome writer’s block is to just start writing. Don’t worry about whether or not what you’re writing is any good, just get the words down on the page. Once you start writing, the ideas will start to come.
- Steal (I mean borrow): I’m not saying you should plagiarize, but it’s okay to borrow ideas from other sources. If you’re having trouble coming up with something original, try looking at other stories, movies, or games for inspiration. Just make sure you put your own spin on it so it’s not an exact copy.
- Take a walk: Sometimes getting some fresh air can help clear your head and give you some new ideas. Go for a walk, sit in the park, or just step outside for a few minutes. You might find that the fresh air does wonders for your creativity.
- Doodle: If you’re having trouble getting words down on the paper, try doodling instead. Draw a picture, write down a list of ideas, or just get your hands moving. You never know what might come from it.
- Get organized: If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the ideas in your head, try getting them down in an organized way. Write down a list of ideas, make a mind map, or just get everything down in one place. Once you have everything organized, you might find it easier to start writing.
- Go analog: If you’re having trouble with digital writing, try going analog. Get a notebook and write down your ideas the old-fashioned way. You might find that the physical act of writing helps to get your ideas flowing. You can even use a typewriter like I do. You can find vintage typewriters on eBay or in antique shops. Flip on that fancy desk lamp and get to it!
Writer’s block can be frustrating, but it doesn’t have to stop you from writing. I hope you found this article helpful!
Use these tips to get your ideas flowing again, and don’t forget to take breaks when you need them. Do you have any tips for overcoming writer’s block? Share them in the comments below.
Happy writing, gaming, and all the fun things!