A Tough Love Talk About Finding Inspiration

Finding inspiration isn’t impossible. Yes, it can be hard and some authors did some crazy things just to tap into that creativity well. While you don’t have to write with a cat on your shoulders like Poe, or keep a desk full of rotting apples like Friedrich Schiller, you should find a way to get inspiration when you can, however you can.

Here’s my first bit of advice, and it’s something that I have to tell myself on a regular basis. Stop thinking your inspiration is dried up, that you have writer’s block, and sit down to work. If you’re wallowing in a lack of creativity rut and not looking for inspiration, you’ll never find the novel worthy idea that’s out there waiting for you. Writing, as much feeling goes into it, is all in your head. You come up with what you write, and you hold yourself back, as well. Take a good look at your lack of inspiration and ask yourself, is it really because you can’t think of anything to write? Or is it because you’re not trying hard enough?

Now that I’ve gotten the toughest of the tough love talk out of the way (a talk I have to give myself from time to time, I’m not guiltless), here are some paths to inspiration that could work for you.

1. Get out of your routine. Maybe you take a new route to work, eat something you’ve never tried before, or even listen to a song you might never listen to. Do anything that you wouldn’t normally do. Now write about it. Have a hard time writing about yourself? Pretend it’s someone else hearing that music for the first time. You’re not a writer listening to a song you’ve never heard before, you’re the boyfriend of a woman who’s getting to hear her sing for the first time. You’re the mother hearing the appalling music her children are into. You’re from another planet experiencing human sounds for the first time. If it’s new to you, it’s new to someone else. Tell their story, and run with it.

2. If that doesn’t work, become a collector. Collect newspaper clippings, smooth stones from riverbeds, magazine covers where you only get the headlines, or even bumper stickers. Now give your collection to your character. Your protagonist’s obsession with new bumper stickers could be what drives him through to your setting.

3. And if all else fails, look at ideas from a new angle. Flipping tropes and tossing traditional plots around are two of my favorite ways to find inspiration. You can surprise yourself, and your future readers, if you try and break parts of the mold to recreate ideas in fantastic new ways.

Need even more ways to find inspiration?

– Keep a dream journal.

– Carry around a “dialogue notebook” and write down conversations you overhear.

– Carry around a notepad in general, and write down any random idea that pops into your head. I’m not kidding, I wrote down “dragon people” one time. I have no idea how I’ll ever use that, but hey, it was a random thought and I think about way more often than I probably should.

– Watch a bad movie, and rewrite it so it’s better.

– Read, read, read, and read. Everything you can get your hands on, even if it’s not something you normally pick up. READ.

– Interview people from different walks of life. Look at their different political, religious and social views with unbiased eyes and not only can you get inspiration, you can learn something, too. You’ll find most people open up if you just ask for them to help you understand their way of life. As a personal side note, I spent three days interviewing people at a Hindu temple in Texas to learn more about their culture, and I wound up finding out more things about myself than I did for my writing. It pays off.

– Tell your version of the news articles. Hell, even if you only read Cosmo, list your “top ten ways to drive him crazy with your tongue”.

– Clean out your attic/crawlspace/closets and put aside items that need to have a story told about them.

– Shut your phone off and spend the day away from your house and technology.

– Speak as little as possible for an entire day, and try to listen more to what’s going on around you.

– Start a blog challenge.

Have anything you want to add to the list? Comment below, and I’ll feature your suggestion in my next post!
Need some books to build your inspiration? Here are three of my favorite. 

– Writer’s Guide to Character Traits

– Writer’s Idea Thesaurus

–  Writer’s Book of Days
Or try checking out tvtropes.org. You can find all sorts of tropes listed there to get inspiration from.

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