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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Is Your Writing Blocked or Have You Run Out of Random?

Amy-SchumerAbout a month ago, I stumbled on a stand-up routine by Amy Schumer. I learned something from Amy about women her age that I wouldn’t have learned anywhere else. My mouth fell open.

“Really?” I said this out loud even though there was no one else in the room. “Seriously?”

Thanks to Amy Schumer, random information entered my brain. I wasn’t sure it was information I wanted in my brain, but there it was.

About a week ago, I got an idea for a new scene for my novel revision. I’ll cringe while writing this scene partially because I don’t like traumatizing my characters and partially because it’s embarrassing to know how the torturer in my novel thinks. The cringe factor tells me the scene has the potential to be good fiction.

I blame Amy Schumer. No one else would notice – it’s not a straight-line derivation — but I know that this scene had its origins in Schumer’s routine. Most of the time I have no idea where my ideas come from, so it is interesting to recognize the connection this time, but I’ll still blame Amy when I cringe drafting the scene.

Creative Requires Random

Creativity is combining two disparate things into a cohesive new whole. Often, the more disparate the elements are, the more engaging the creation is. Because we want to be creative, writers need to scoop up massive amounts of random images, experiences and bits of information.


Neat brain attic = nothing new here

It might be mere chance that brings random bits together, in which case, the more diverse and weird stuff you have in your brain, the greater the likelihood that two or more random bits will bump into each other in unexpectedly creative ways.

I’m inclined to think that it’s more than chance. I suspect there is an unconscious process in some part of the brain that actively rummages around in its own attic of memory, tossing bits around until it finds a combination worth the effort of getting the conscious mind to notice. In which case, the more diverse and weird stuff you have in your brain, the more stuff your unconscious has to play around with.

Either way, you need stuff in your brain. And not just “useful information” or ordinary stuff. You need random input.

The next time you feel blocked, resistant or stymied for a solution to a writing problem, throw something random into your brain attic.

Next post: Do you have enough random? Where do you get random?

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8 Comments on “Is Your Writing Blocked or Have You Run Out of Random?”

  1. aszzmiilug@gmail.com March 17, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

    I will right away take hold of your rss as I can not in finding your email subscription link or newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Please allow me understand in order that I could subscribe. Thanks.
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    • rosannebane March 18, 2014 at 10:45 am #

      Monster Beat: there should be a link for subscribing in the upper right hand column of my blog.


  2. Joel D Canfield February 7, 2014 at 7:52 am #

    Heat is when the molecules in something start moving around and bump into each other.

    A crowded brain just seems far more likely to generate writing heat when it’s full of stuff which could connect spontaneously.

    There’s something in my recent reading about fostering random connections but I can’t remember which book it was. If I do I’ll give you a shout.


    • rosannebane February 7, 2014 at 9:12 am #

      I’d love to know what book it is! Jonah Lehrer refers to it in Imagine, could that be it?


      • Joel D Canfield February 7, 2014 at 9:49 am #

        Read that when it was new, but not since.

        The books I’ve read recently where it might have come from:

        Uncertainty (Jonathan Fields)
        The Power of Starting Something Stupid (Richie Norton)
        Resilience (Mark McGuinness)
        The Myths of Creativity (David Burkus)

        If something more concrete surfaces I’ll give you a shout. (They’re all excellent books so if you end up rummaging through all four looking for the point, you won’t lose anything.)


        • rosannebane February 7, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

          Thanks for the book list! I’ll check them out. Actually, the point I plan to make in the next post is that writers usually need more rummaging around…



  1. Looks Like Writer’s Block, But It’s Not | Bane of Your Resistance - August 4, 2016

    […] Unconsciously research the idea, aka run into random bits of information (we used to have more opportunities for this random research, now we need to actively seek the random) […]


  2. Is the “Efficiency Trap” Blocking Your Writing? | The Bane of Your Resistance - February 10, 2014

    […] Efficiency can be a good thing, but I’ve “efficiencied” myself out valuable random input. […]


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