|Suffering the Glockenspiel in Munich.|
What I'm going to recommend here is pretty stupid/obvious. Yet it's so easy for us to forget we have this option available to us, so here it is: get the hell out! And I don't mean to the local overpriced coffee shop with your latest digital toy. I mean, actually go someplace and do something. Yep, stupid/obvious! But there is a method to my madness. I like to call it "passive research."
What that means, in a proverbial nutshell, is exploring places you might not ordinarily go, for the specific purpose of stumbling upon something that might spark ideas for your writing. For example, a decade ago I flew to Seattle for five days. Why Seattle? Well, why the hell not? I'd never been; sounded like an interesting place. I was working on a script for a Canadian company and heck, Vancouver, BC, always doubles for Seattle in the movies. So let's check it out, I thought. Well, that trip yielded so much awesomeness that not only did that Canadian project wind up referencing key locations and details about Seattle, but I wrote a whole nother action script set there, designing the four major action set pieces around interesting locations I discovered while there -- Pike Place Market, the Chittenden Locks, and so forth. Sure, I could have read up on the place or watched YouTube videos about it, but it's another thing entirely to be there, to feel the pulse of it all, to check out the nooks and crannies and crooks and nannies. Because that's where the verisimilitude, or believable level of detail, comes from.
|The escape cage: a fun place to spend the night.|
Of course there was so much more -- the electricity in the air as tens of thousands of Berliners jammed the Brandenburger Tor for a public showing of the Euro Cup semifinal, which gave way to stoic despair as Italy gave them a massive drubbing; the subtle but gut-wrenching Dodger's Alley memorial in Munich; the white-knuckle, overloaded cable car ride to the frozen peak of Zugspitze, 10,000 feet in the Alps (note: just enough room atop the car for two people to battle it out); and the odd lack of screens on the windows, proper double beds or ice in the drinks. All these little details may well inform the next few things I write, and furthermore, they have sparked several story ideas.
So if you're feeling in a rut, heck, give yourself a little break and take your show on the road. It certainly doesn't have to be a trip overseas either. Challenge yourself with a day trip to someplace maybe a bit out of your comfort zone in your city or down the road apiece. Here in Los Angeles, there's all kinds of crazy stuff you can do for relatively cheap. Kayaking through some caves. Exploring the new transit system and historic ethnic areas of the city. Rappelling off Point Dume. My pal Saul Rubin wrote a great book full of cheap, fun and bizarre SoCal adventures which you can get for 6 bucks on Amazon -- grab a copy. The best part of allowing yourself the little recharge is, you'll be improving your writing without actually writing! And that should appeal to the professional crastinator in all of us ;)