Writers are obsessive by nature. We don’t write because we’re good at it, or because it seems like an okay way to pass the time. We write because a story or character latches onto us, takes over our minds, and refuses to release its grip until we do its bidding through the power of a pen.
Obsession is the very definition of inspiration. But let’s face it. Even the most seasoned writers sometimes struggle to find that obsession. Sometimes inspiration takes hold for days or weeks, but at other times, it is painfully absent. For me, this usually happens when I’m first trying to start a new story, or when I’m coming up with ideas for a new one.
Lately I’ve been trying to write more short fiction, but I’ll be honest: I haven’t written a short story in several years. My short story muscle is weak from lack of exercise, and trying to think of an idea that inspires me enough to write it has been a huge struggle.
If you’re a writer, you’ve been there. Maybe you’ve been working feverishly on a piece for months and you’ve finally finished, but getting started on something new feels forced and uncomfortable. Or perhaps you haven’t had time to write lately at all, so you’re not sure where to begin.
Whatever the situation, you and I both know what it’s like to be stuck. It’s frustrating, and it makes us feel like we hardly deserve to be called writers at all. But don’t worry. You’re not alone, and there are ways to get those creative juices flowing again.
Listen to Music
Music is my go-to source for writing inspiration. I’m not sure why, but it’s usually all I need to get the juices flowing. If I’m writing a fight scene, I go for epic rock or heavy metal. An inspirational feel-good or love scene? Disney music all the way!
This is kind of embarrassing to admit, but I’ve even been known to give my characters their own theme songs. This helps not only with inspiration, but also with understanding my characters. And I’m not going to lie: it’s so cool to imagine my story has been made into a movie, and to think about what music will be playing in the background when a character is introduced.
Try it! At the very least, you’ll learn a little more about your characters.
Talk it Out
Granted, talking about your story with someone isn’t always an option. Many of us don’t have that special friend, parent, or significant other we feel comfortable enough to share our deepest thoughts with.
But if you do have that person in your life, talk to them about your stories. Bounce ideas off them. If you haven’t done this in the past, trust me, you’ll be astounded by how energized and inspired you will feel after the conversation.
When I was in high school, I had a friend whose imagination was easily as wild as my own. She was no writer, but she was delighted when I’d write stories about the two of us living in fantasy worlds as powerful heroes. And now that I’m a married adult, my husband is more than happy to offer his own ideas about what could happen in my stories.
Bouncing ideas off another person energizes me more than I can express. So if you have this option available to you, try it! I promise you won’t regret it.
Before college, I thought writing prompts were a stupid idea, aimed at limiting my imagination and creating boring, predictable work. I rankled at the idea of starting a story from someone else’s idea, and felt the result couldn’t possibly be original.
I could not have been more wrong. For some reason, giving a writer limitations can be oddly freeing. Especially when you’re fresh out of ideas and you have no idea what to write, following a prompt will narrow your focus and force you to write something you might never have thought of.
I found some interesting writing prompts at the following websites.
Give this technique a try if you haven’t in the past. You’d be surprised what can happen when you try something new!
Writers need to read. It’s just a fact. It’s how we develop our own unique voice, learn new techniques, and continuously improve our craft. You can gain so much inspiration by reading, and by branching into genres you haven’t previously tried. You may even get ideas for a type of story you’d never imagined yourself writing.
So be adventurous. Read continuously, try new things, and decide what your favorites are. Most of the time you’ll decide to write in the genre you like most, and there is nothing wrong with that.
If something isn’t your style, don’t force yourself to finish. Only read things that inspire you and capture your imagination. Life is short, so don’t waste your energy on something that doesn’t contribute to your happiness or your craft in some way.
Spend Time in Nature
Nature has long inspired artists. Think Claude Monet, Robert Frost, and Rudyard Kipling. Even if your writing has nothing to do with the Earth’s beauty, I personally believe striving to describe your surroundings is a fantastic way to improve your descriptive writing skills.
But it goes beyond that. When I’m outside by myself and I feel the warm sun on my face, listen to the gentle breeze stir the trees and the river rush past, it gives me time to quiet my mind. I can take that time to think, but I can also just choose to exist in the moment.
Sometimes, the best way to get inspired is to stop trying.
So remember, when you feel stuck and the creative juices just aren’t flowing, you can always:
- Listen to music for inspiration.
- Get new ideas by talking it out with someone close to you.
- Utilize writing prompts to generate ideas for new stories.
- Read something new, or re-read a piece you know sparks your creativity.
- Clear your mind by spending time in nature.
Do What Works For You!
These are just a few of the ways I inspire myself. I encourage you to give them a try, but please take my advice with a grain of salt. Everyone is different, and what works for me may not work for you in the same way.
Did I miss anything? What tactics do you use to get inspired? I’d love to hear about it! Please let me know in the comments below.