Are you tired of workshopping the same stories over and over? Do you dream of creating a plot that takes place during a tsunami or a tornado, but instead end up writing yet another version of the plot you’ve already written five times . . . the one about the college girl who got dumped by her boyfriend when he fell for their history professor? Do you long to break out of your usual pattern and create, say, a woman protagonist who works as a feisty detective instead of dragging around her house being a bored empty-nester?
If you’re having a tough time coming up with new plots, characters, and situations, just know that you’re not alone – the fact is, almost all writers go through creative dry spells. They get stuck in the muck, spinning their wheels, and are unable to get any traction or move in a new direction.
“There are lots of reasons why we fall into these ruts,” says instructor John Lee. “We can’t make the time to write and then feel guilty about it. Or we’re gun-shy about moving beyond story ideas and themes that are familiar and comfortable to us. Or sometimes the well of ideas simply, inexplicably runs dry.
“In this class we’re going to try to shake up our creative processes. Mostly what we’ll do together is write: we’ll use outside-the-box exercises to brainstorm new ideas and new possibilities for our work. We’ll also read and discuss the work of established writers for some insight to what makes for interesting, stimulating story ideas. And we’ll give and receive helpful feedback on each others’ writing. Our goal will be to leave the class with a handful of promising new story beginnings and some durable strategies for jumpstarting our writing.”
John Lee teaches writing at Stanford University. He received his MFA from the University of Michigan and was awarded the Carol Houck Smith Fiction Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin, a Steinbeck creative writing fellowship at San José State University, and writing residencies from Yaddo, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, and the Headlands Center for the Arts, among others. When not teaching or writing, he spends a lot of time on the basketball court, where he will occasionally show “a pretty decent” (self–reported) lefty hook shot.