The problem I see with writing (and drawing) is that people believe that they should be able to do it without any training. We all learn to write in school, we all can compose a coherent narrative, for example in a letter to our grandparents or a "what I did during the summer holidays" essay for school, and we all have been drawing since we were able to hold a pencil. So we all can write and draw, yet when we sit down and want to write a novel or draw a likeness of our girl friends, we cannot. So we assume that we lack "talent" or some secret knowledge that we try to find in books on writing or drawing, creative writing courses, drawing DVDs, or ask for on the internet. And whatever people tell us, it does not give us this flash of divine inspiration. We feel like before, so we don't think that advice was the missing secret. So we buy more and more books on writing (or drawing), visit course after course, and in the end we give up and never draw or write again, because we believe we have finally understood that we don't have it in us to write or draw.
But in reality everyone can learn to write or draw. Maybe not everyone can draw like [insert the name of the artist you admire most] or write like [your favourite author], but we all can write and draw like the many people who make a living with drawing and writing.
If only we would heed the one advice that is being repeated by professionals of all fields over and over again since the beginning of time:
And what is "practice"? Is it based on some secret knowledge of obscure Himalayan monks? Do you need this rare brush or expensive software that no-one who knows about it will tell you? No!
Practice is sitting on your chair and doing what you want to learn!
There is no mystery about it. Not secret to divulge. You know it all already. If you want to run a marathon, will you be able after having spent the last fifteen years on your sofa? No! Why do people understand that they have to train for sports, for speaking a foreign language, for driving a car or skateboard, for cooking, for a job, for anything, but expect to be able to write or draw immediately or not at all?!?
It is not a legend but a simple fact that the masters of any craft, from music to science to art, have put in thousands of hours of training before they achieved their level of mastery, so all you need to do to learn to be creative and have great ideas or to write well is to put in a few thousand hours into training. Write, write, and write. That is all the secret there is to writing well. Develop ideas, and keep developing them, for hours, weeks and months, and with time your ideas will get better.
It is extremely simple and straightforward. You need nothing, except to stop expecting mastery to happen within the first fifteen minutes and give yourself time. The important ingredients are:
Your question has been asked a billion times on the net, and my recommendation is the same it always is to similar questions:
Make writing a habit.
- identify the times that you have time to write (e.g. half an hour every evening before you go to bed, on the train to work, in your lunch hour, sunday before church, ...)
- make that your writing time
- perceive writing similarly to a job: do it, no matter what
- to begin, write whatever comes to mind
- quality does not matter, the only important thing is that you write
- again, perceive it like a job: you are doing time, it does not matter how much you write or what the quality of your writing is, write like you work on a job you hate while your boss is watching you: just do it, pretend, etc.
- it takes twenty to thirty days to build a habit, so keep at it one month before you evaluate your practice
- after some time (depends on how regularly you write, for how long, and your basic creativity) you will begin to have ideas and a story (or whatever you aim for) will develop
Craig Sefton gives some additional (and better phrased) tips in his answer to another question.
There's this fantastic book by psychologist Paul J. Silvia, How to Write a Lot. It is about academic writing, but that does not matter. In this book, Silvia studies how successful writers (like Stephen King) work and distills their practice into his tips (which I briefly outlined above). There are many writers that Silvia does not mention in his book, but whenever I read how they work, they all do the same: they set a fixed daily time that they sit down to write, not matter what. They never wait for creativity to happen, they just fill the blank page with words. Just write what you think, or what you see out the window, or what you just did, or what you will do after you are done, or whatever, and after about fifteen minutes of this "warming up", ideas start to happen.