There's a great quote by Jack London about inspiration.
"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."
To a certain extent, I absolutely agree with this. If you don't actively
go after your goals, you won't achieve them. As much as I wish it would
some days, that book isn't just going to write itself. I need to sit my
butt in front of my computer and actually work.
However, that said, sitting down at the computer without even a glimmer
of inspiration is pretty much pointless for me. And sometimes, that
inspiration is really hard to come by. But that doesn't mean that I have
a free pass to go do something else. I have deadlines I need to meet,
and sometimes the words just aren't there when I'm ready to write, so I
need to find my inspiration. To do this, I need to work with what
My top tactics involve music, visual imagery, going for a walk or a drive and showers.
Music is a pretty obvious one. Setting up a playlist that goes with the
story I'm working on is invaluable. It can help evoke the mood I want
to convey and it comes with the great side effect of blocking out
environmental distractions. But there's something even more magical
about music. Even if I'm not actively focused on listening to the music
because I'm writing, it's still making its way into my brain and
creating subconscious connections and ideas that work their way into the
story. Sometimes I do fine with music with lyrics other times I need
instrumental arrangements. Find what works best for you.
Visual images are also helpful when it comes to story inspiration and
why Pinterest is such a fantastic tool for me. Photographs and other
artwork are a great jumping off point when it comes to settings, people
and objects you might be describing. Now I'm not suggesting that you
troll for images and insert those exact descriptions into your story,
although, you certainly could. But I am suggesting that you look for
images that convey the feeling you're looking to incorporate into your
story. Using those images as a starting place can help give your story
depth and guide it in new and exciting directions. Keep in mind that
Pinterest is a giant rabbit hole that can be difficult to climb out of,
so definitely consider setting a time limit.
Sometimes the best thing I can do when I'm looking for inspiration is to
get away from my computer. Going for walks or a drive in the country or
out to the lake shore is great way to free your mind. One part of your
brain is concerned with the mechanics of driving or walking, but it
requires a differnt sort of concentration. You're basically on autopilot
while in another corner of your brain, your story is tumbling over and
over like rocks in a polisher and eventually the polished gems of
inspiration are going to tumble out and you'll be able to set them into
your story. Now, I'm not suggesting that you completely zone out while
you're walking or driving - that's just dangerous. And stupid. And I'm
not a fan of either, but it is possible to do both. However, if you get
an idea worth writing down, please stop/pull over before jotting it down
in your notebook.
The shower is another great place of inspiration for me. If I'm not
rushing to get out the door, I get the best ideas in the shower. In our
house, we call it visits from the shower faery. It's the same sort of
thing as getting ideas while you're walking or driving - your body is on
autopilot freeing your brain to roll around and make connections that
it might not have otherwise made. Also, there's something about water
that helps loosen the subconscious which is why I like to hang out by
lakes when I'm working on a book. But the shower is a great substitute
if I can't get away. I get so many great ideas in the shower that I
actually have a waterproof notepad mounted to the wall in there. It's
one of the best gifts I was ever given.
This isn't even close to a comprehensive list of all the things you can
do to chase down inspiration (or you know, lure it close enough to club)
but these are the things that work for me. I'd love to hear what works
for you. How do you get inspired when the words aren't flowing?