id Lists - Write What You Love
Every author has been affected by writer’s block from time to time. It just happens. For whatever reason, we seem to run out of ideas.
I have heard many different approaches to address this, from skipping over that part for a while to work backwards into that scene to “set something on fire” to see how your characters would react. Each of these is valid and may work for different people, but the one approach I’ve heard that I absolutely support is “refer to your id list.”
My first reaction to this advice, probably like yours now, was “what the hell is an id list?” I’m not sure where the concept originated, but it was brought to my attention by Angie Hodapp during a truly exceptional MasterClass entitled “The Wordsmith’s Guide to Voice and Style” presented at this year’s RMFW Writers Conference.
First, as many know, the id is one of three distinct yet interacting psychological aspects of the human mind as proposed by Sigmund Freud. The id represents the instinctual part of our psyche, our bodily needs and wants, desires, impulses, and libido – things driven by pleasure. Think of the little devil on your shoulder ignoring the other guy and encouraging you to do what you want.
Applying the id to writing, an id list encompasses those things you truly enjoy, whether in your life, your reading, or your writing. Angie suggested developing a few different lists organized into things you like about Settings, Characters, Premises, and Other Details. For me, I like graveyards, space ships, and dark, smoky nightclubs, and I’ve added those to my Settings id list. For Characters, I like secret agents, smart-asses, and women who kick-ass with their brains. For Other Details, dogs, aliens, music, and samurai swords all make any story or situation better.
And what you include is limitless. Whenever you’re inspired, jot a few notes and add to your id lists. Love sandy beaches, mountain cabins, or New Orleans? Add them to your Settings. How about detectives, ninjas, or wizards? Maybe even wizard-ninjas. Add them to Characters. How about the triumph of good over evil, the reconnection of long-lost friends, a community coming together, an artful heist, or an earth-shattering scientific breakthrough? All are good additions to the Premises list.
Make your id lists long and varied, because you see where this is leading.
In those dark moments where you hit a block, you’ve got dozens if not hundreds of things you already love to try and incorporate. Unlike setting something on fire and trying to figure what happens next, you already have a natural affinity toward the items on your id list and can more easily integrate those elements. It’s an aspect of “write what you know” I like to call “write what you love.”