Writing, and especially crafting a compelling story, can be both one of the most fun and one of the most frustrating things you could pursue. It’s fun when you’re creating something new that will hopefully impact someone else, but it’s frustrating when each story doesn’t just flow out of your mind with ease and onto the page. Creative inspiration can feel incredibly elusive when you’re a writer, yet many writers put all of their trust in this mysterious thing that they spend each day pursuing but rarely capturing. The creative process seems to flow so much better when you’re inspired, but when you’re not, you’re forced to decide whether to push through the lack of inspiration and try to create something anyway or rest in the belief that you won’t produce anything of value if it’s not inspired. If you’re new to creative writing, this course will guide you through taking an idea and turning it into a story.
What to Do When Creative Inspiration Doesn’t Show Up
It’s not hard to see that if you wait until inspiration shows up before you start creating, you won’t create much, and there’s not much fun or productivity in that. Stephen King is one of the most prolific writers in the world, having sold more than 350 million copies of his books during the course of his career. The thing about Stephen King that makes him successful is that he doesn’t wait for inspiration to come before he sits down to create a story. In his book On Writing, a book that is revered by writers around the world, King writes, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” When it comes to creating for Stephen King, creative inspiration doesn’t rule the day. Instead, King sits down and writes, generating inspiration himself when it refuses to show up on its own. Generating our own creative inspiration should be our goal as writers so that we create more and so that our creative process is driven by us instead of this elusive thing called inspiration. If you’re interested in looking deeper into the creative process, check out this course on the art and science of creativity. Here are three practical tips for generating your own creative inspiration when you sit down to work on your next writing project.
When it comes to storytelling, one of the most innovative storytellers active today is writer, director, and producer J.J. Abrams. Abrams was responsible for the television shows Alias, LOST, and Fringe. He rebooted the Star Trek movie franchise, and he’s so well-respected as a creator and storyteller that he’s at the helm of the first Disney’s new Star Wars sequel trilogy. He even created one of the most innovative storytelling experiences last year with author Doug Dorst in their novel S. Clearly, Abrams knows a lot about generating his own creative inspiration. One of the primary things that marks Abrams’ shows and movies as well as his creative process is the concept of mystery. In his 2007 TED Talk, he told the audience that mystery “represents infinite possibility…it represents hopes [and] potential. Mystery is the catalyst for imagination.” Did you catch that?
“Mystery is the catalyst for imagination.” – J.J. Abrams
The first way to generate inspiration is to embrace mystery. When we’re children, this is instinctive. When you’re a child, life is all about discovery, and that alone makes life exciting. Being a storyteller means that life can be just as exciting as it was when we were children. We do that by embracing mystery, but what does that look like on a practical level?
It means we relentlessly ask questions. There’s no limitation to the questions we could ask, but a great question to start with is, “What if?” Asking “What if?” can guide you to all sorts of story ideas. Don’t worry if your questions are too long because that’s part of the fun.
What if a young girl lost her father to alcohol addiction, but her father wakes up in a field ten years later with a rewritten history in which he never died, yet history didn’t change for her, and he has to find her and rescue her from a dangerous situation before it’s too late?
What if a group of teenagers finds a mysterious book that erases all of their memories and replaces those memories with new memories that never happened, and one of them somehow remembers who they really are and has to find a way to restore the memories of the rest of them before they commit actions that their real selves would never do?
What if a man lost the woman he loved most in college because he was too prideful to admit that he loved someone who didn’t fit in with his cool friends and he gets the chance to reconnect with her years later, but now he doesn’t measure up to the people she spends time with, and he has to find a way to win her heart before he loses her to a jerk who doesn’t really care about her?
The possibilities are endless when you ask the “What if?” question, but you shouldn’t stop there. Now, it’s time to develop those ideas, and you do that by relentlessly asking questions of those ideas.
Why did the father not care enough about his daughter to fight his alcohol addiction?
What happened that caused the man to die?
What was the daughter’s reaction when her father died?
What is the father thinking when he wakes up alive ten years later, knowing that he actually died ten years earlier?
What is the dangerous situation the daughter is caught up in?
What is the story going to require for him to rescue her?
When you relentlessly ask questions of your ideas, your ideas become better because you’re exploring the mystery and discovering more and more about story events, character motivations, and what is possible with your story. Embracing the mystery can not only generate the inspiration you need, it injects fun back into your creative process so that you enjoy the journey of creating. You’ll be fighting for time to sit down and write. Though designed for sales people, this course will help you to develop the art of asking good engaging questions.
Capture Every Idea
If you embrace mystery, you’re idea output will likely increase quite a bit, so what do you do with all of those ideas? The chances of every idea you come up with being a winner are slim, but every idea can be made better. Ideas can’t develop if we don’t capture them first. Ideas can pop into your head at any moment of the day, and because any of those ideas could potentially be the seed that develops into a great idea that people are fascinated by, you don’t want any of them to get away. No matter how ridiculous or terrible an idea sounds, be intentional about capturing every single idea you come up with. You can carry around a notebook, or you can use a smartphone app like Evernote to capture all of your ideas. If you’re unfamiliar with Evernote, this course will help you to get set up and organized in Evernote.
After you’ve captured an idea, you can let it sit for awhile. When you come back to it later on, you’ll be looking at with fresh eyes, and you begin developing the idea by asking questions of it. Your idea capturing process will also be useful for working through the questions you pose to your ideas by writing them down.
Storytellers can easily fall into the tendency of living life entirely inside of their heads, but if you do that, you’re missing out on one of the primary ways to generate creative inspiration: living life. When we were kids, life was about discovery. Why did that have to change as we got older? Life can still be about discovery, and discovering new things about the world we live in can be the catalyst for new story ideas. Do things that you’ve never done before. Do things that look fun. Do things that look challenging. Do things that get you out of your comfort zone. When you do any of those things, be relentlessly observant about everything that is going on. Try to discover at least one new thing every week, and use that one thing as a springboard for your “What if?” questions. This course will guide you on how to live a more adventurous discovery-based life.
Time to Make Writing Fun Again
By now, you should be ready to sit down in front of a blank page and start creating something new because you’ve generated your own creative inspiration. When inspiration rules the day, writing is probably the least fun thing you could be doing. But when you take control back from inspiration and generate it yourself, writing becomes fun again. It’s time to have some fun. If you’re interested in developing an idea into a published novel, check out this novel writing workshop course.