Inspiration is one of the most discussed topics among writers. Where to get it? How to use it? How to keep it alive once you’ve found it?
This is one thing I am lucky enough not to struggle with too often. My usual problem is having too many small pieces of inspiration that don’t fit together. But any of them could spark and light the fire of a new story at any time.
Chances are if you’re lamenting the lack of inspiration it is less because you have none and more because you don’t think any of it is “right” or “good.” Collect it anyway. You never know when a song lyric you love or that hilarious culinary mistake you made will become an important piece of a storytelling puzzle.
5 tips for harnessing inspiration:
1. Keep track of things that happen in your life or things you see day to day.
Keep a journal – this doesn’t have to be a detailed accounting of your deeds or feelings at all. It can be a simple ABC of events. But looking back over your day may help you remember things that moved you or disturbed you – the things that stuck in your mind. These are the moments that will drive your fiction.
Bank ideas for times when you might not feel inspired. Then, you’ll have a place to go when you’re stuck in a rut and need an idea loan.
2. Keep a notebook and pen with you at all times or install a program such as Google Keep or Evernote on your phone.
And use them! Record the small act of kindness you witnessed on the way to work. Describe the facial expressions and arm-waving of the couple arguing on the sidewalk by your house.
I love using the voice recorder on my phone for ideas because sometimes I just don’t have two available hands. Plus, I can hold it up to my face and appear to be talking to someone so that passers-by don’t worry about my mental health. (Well, they might anyway but what can you do? I’ve never claimed sanity.)
3. Keep track of what you were doing when you got your recent inspirations.
Does traveling help? Just taking a drive or even spending some time in the airport? Does eating out and people watching work? Or is solitude best for collecting your thoughts? Does it happen when you go running or while you shower?
My strangest inspirational activity is the unpleasant duty (no pun intended here) of picking up my dogs' poo in my yard. Doing something monotonous that I don’t want to concentrate on too hard helps me sort through plot difficulties and iron out dialogue.
If you feel that you’ve been lacking inspiration, do one of those activities that inspire you.
4. Try something new.
Have you ever been to a choral concert? How about a rodeo? Rock climbing? How about a trip to a wildlife preserve? New experiences spark the imagination and light up parts of your brain that may not normally be affected. So have an adventure. Live life out from behind your desk for a bit and you'll have fresh eyes when you return to it.
5. Create something else.
Do you sew? Or paint? Take photographs or play an instrument? Creative people NEED to create. I know I’m not at my best when I am not doing what I love to do. But everyone needs a change of pace sometimes.
The general advice is to write always – even when you’re not in the mood. I don’t disagree with this but delving into a different creative endeavor can often help you to reconnect with your writing. Taking a day or two to write in a different genre or do some scrapbooking may be just what your creator’s brain needs.