“Come to me, Muse!”: Nine Things That Inspire Me and Might Inspire You
September was a crazy busy month (for good reasons, fortunately)! And with busy times, it can be hard to find the motivation or the inspiration to get writing. So, I thought I’d round up a few of the things that help me get into that writing zone.
It sucks when you feel like you’re waiting around for inspiration to strike, but it never does. How do you get it back? And how do you convince yourself to sit down and write anyway, even when it feels fruitless? I can only speak from my personal experience, but I’ve had more writing slumps than I can count. Sometimes it’s because life just gets in the way. It happens. Other times, it might be in the wake of upheaval in your life, big changes, disappointments, or loss. It can be incredibly discouraging to feel like you’ll never write or be creative again. But creativity never vanishes forever. You might just need to recharge your creative batteries. Here are some of the things that help me get back into the swing of writing.
1. Moving. It might be a boring one, but exercise always makes me more productive. Particularly walking. Walking in the evening is one of the things that inspires me the most. Maybe it’s because although I’m still active, I can allow my mind to wander and catch onto people and things I pass by. Whatever your exercise habits, this is something you can incorporate by walking, running, swimming... the possibilities are almost endless.
2. Keep a list of ideas. They don’t have to be novel concepts and they don’t have to be fleshed out. They can be images, places, a scrap of dialogue, anything your brain catches onto. You don’t have to know what you want to do with it, but if you find it interesting, write it down. You can use it as a prompt later if you want. Sometimes it helps to start with a focal point when you first sit down to write. It makes that blank page a bit less intimidating.
3. Music. I love to write with music in the background. It can be too much of a distraction sometimes, but more often than not it helps me sink into my writing headspace. And it helps to create a thematic playlist. For every long project I’ve ever written, I’ve had an appropriate playlist. A soundtrack. Even if you’re not the kind of person who likes to have music on, maybe make that playlist anyway. Listen to it when you’re walking, or doing the dishes, or on the way to work. Put your mind back into the world of your writing and just let it exist there for a bit. The more you do it, the clearer it will become. If you don’t have a specific project in mind at the moment, make a playlist and then imagine a world, or character, or scene that might fit it. Music can help inspire to shape the details, or it can help you build the foundation of your story by giving you the right tone or feel. At the moment I'm listening to a lot of Florence + the Machine while I write...
4. Being in nature. In parks, or, when I’m lucky enough, by the sea. I think there’s something about nature that reminds me how large the world is. And I sometimes feel that inspiration is all about recognising how much there is in the world and figuring out what can be done with it. Especially if you live in a city (which I do), I think it helps to find the space. I don’t know about anyone else, but I am never less inspired than when I’m crammed in a corner against five other people on public transport.
5. Reading good books, watching good films. When I read more, I write more. There might be times when you’re writing that you might want to avoid reading something too close in terms of style or genre, but on the whole, reading widely can be very helpful. And I think it helps to read outside your usual genre as well. Adding more variety to your reading list will certainly not harm your search to get inspired.
6. Reading bad books, watching bad films. You can learn almost as much from a bad book as you can from a good one. It can show you all the things you shouldn’t do, or it can show you good ideas executed poorly. Anything that stimulates your mind and your creativity is good, and thinking critically about a book or film that you think could have been better can be as rewarding as it is frustrating.
7. Talking about it. It can be helpful to talk to someone about your ideas, or lack of them, or that feeling of being stuck. I don’t necessarily mean an editor, but talking to a friend might help. Sometimes, just being able to voice it and look at it from another angle can help get things moving again. Forcing yourself to articulate feelings can also force you to look at them differently and finding different perspectives is key to getting inspired and to writing.
8. Writing. One of the best things to get your creativity flowing is to actually write. I’m a firm believer in the idea that creativity builds upon itself. It might be very difficult at first, but force yourself to write every day. Don’t set yourself a 2000 word challenge every day, just start small. A few hundred words. It’s a description, a setting, a kernel of a scene. And tomorrow, you’ve got something to build your next few hundred words on top of.
9. Other creative activities. If you’re in a writing funk and you just can’t get going, try doing other creative things instead. Pushing your writing when it just isn’t working can feel like banging your head against a brick wall. So stop and try something else. Start a different writing project, or teach yourself to draw, or play music, or even cook or bake. Personally, I like to make bead bracelets. It takes the pressure off because there’s really no way to do it wrong. If you like it, it’s right. Try things out and experiment with hobbies that use your creativity in a different way than you’re used to.
Most importantly, don’t give up and don’t be too hard on yourself. Everything you do and write is part of a learning experience, so it’s okay if it isn’t the best thing you’ve ever written. Recognise your writing for what it can teach you, as well as for what it is. If you have any other techniques to get yourself inspired, leave them in a comment below!