There are two schools of thought when it comes to getting inspired as a writer. One says inspiration is overrated and unnecessary to the point that actively needing it becomes a hindrance to a writer. The other believes it’s critical and indispensable to the writing process. Whatever side you’re on, you’ve definitely felt the need to write; and whether you call it inspiration or not, you know the feeling is real and indispensable.
But can it be induced or provoked? And if so, then how?
Writing is, for most, a solitary activity, and you can give yourself creative energy by getting out there and interacting with the world.
Call up a friend you haven’t seen in awhile and meet up with them. There’s no promise that a story from their life will make its way into your writing, but it will give you some perspective on life, and at the very least take your mind off that latest unsuccessful draft.
You can also solve your inspiration problem the Aaron Sorkin way: go to a public place, and listen. Put some time into it, and you’ll surely stumble onto a brilliant conversation someone’s having.
Do Some Writing Exercises
We’ve written before that doing a few writing exercises can spark your imagination, and that still holds true. Don’t scoff — you never now where that exciting idea is going to come from, and it just might be playing around with the plot generator, or silly re-writings of children’s tales.
Journals and diaries might seem quaint and antiquated in the era of Twitter, when we are so tempted to make our private selves public, but there’s something to keeping your innermost thoughts and observations to yourself. And there’s no shortage of great literary minds who kept a journal, either.
Take a page from their (note)book, and start journaling. It’s a no-pressure environment in which you can express anything you want to, and not feel the scrutiny of presenting it for public consumption. A new idea that will capture your imagination just might come to you while you’re writing down your thoughts on the different colors of birds you’ve seen that day.
And next time you’re starving for some inspiration, you’ll have the option of dipping into your diary for an old-but-forgotten gem.
Musicians get inspired by other musicians, painters get inspired by other painters, and writers get inspired by other writers. If you’re anything like a typical author, you have a mile-long “to read” list that you can consult for reading material.
If you don’t have something at the ready, go back and read your old favorites. Everyone has that book they’re ready to read over and over for weeks on end. Read your favorite book from when you were growing up. Does it hold up? Read something you though was bad. Has your opinion changed? What mistakes did the writer make that you want to avoid?
Do Some Freewriting
The idea behind freewriting is essentially the same as journaling: a no-stakes way to come up with fresh ideas and new avenues for old ones. None of it has to be good enough to show people or be used anywhere, so all the pressure is off.
Start writing, and don’t stop. See what you come up with, and even if it isn’t any good, you haven’t wasted a day by not writing.
Daydreaming is something most people abandon as they grow up, but thinking about what life could be like if you were born in a different era or in a different country or in a world with free jetpacks given to every college graduate might help you come up with a new idea for your writing.
If a thought comes up that tickles you, write it down. You might use it later.
Inspiration can come from the most unlikely of sources, even a dreaded telemarketer call. So open your mind to new ideas, don’t be cynical about anything, and they will surely come to you.