Inspiration for Writing: How to Break Through Writer’s Block
I think my favorite quote about writing comes from Jack London. He said “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” Whether you have been writing for years, or are at the very beginning of your new creative outlet, we all know the frustration associated with writer’s block and the challenge of overcoming it. When you’re faced with a lack of inspiration for writing, it can be really discouraging, and sometimes last longer than you anticipated. Writing is always “work”, but that work just flows so much easier when your muse is speaking to you. As a professional writer, I recognize that inspiration is key. It is the difference between cranking out an essay or blog post with relative ease, and struggling with every word.
Inspiration is all around you. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of looking up from the keyboard or the notebook and experiencing the world a little. Writers do tend to lock themselves away in order to finish a project. While that definitely cuts down in distractions, it can also inadvertently cut you off from all the sights, sounds and experiences you need to keep your ideas fresh and free flowing. I’ve come up with a list of sources I often turn to for writing inspiration. I hope they help you too!
Well, okay, maybe not in a creepy way. What I really mean is to go out and be around people. The daily trials and travails of the folks around us can sometimes provide that spark we’ve been looking for. Cafés, book stores, the mall, the park – anywhere that people congregate might be a great opportunity for you to observe a slice of life that inspires you to write. It could be as commonplace as someone pressing a “walk” button, or as rare and special as a marriage proposal. There is individual story potential unfolding around us all time time. Go out and see if any of them get you thinking.
Go to Sleep
Banging your head against a problem is not likely to make it go away. If you are truly frazzled, and not able to make any progress with your writing, see if a little sleep can recharge you. Sometimes, the brain fog we’re in is actually a result of exhaustion. Even just a power nap might snap you out of it. Best case scenario would be having a really lucid, and inspiring dream. Sometimes, the answers are already in your head and you just need to give your mind a rest in order to see them.
Be Around Children
Kids have a certain way of looking at the world. The quips and observations they make are often funny, blunt, and remarkably insightful. Kids can be matter of fact in their language, and sometimes offer up an opinion that makes you think about something is a different way. This can be especially helpful is you are looking to write children’s literature or stories aimed at a younger audience. You can get a much better sense of your intended readers this way.
Exercise is tremendously helpful to the creative process. Sometimes, we have some of our best ideas on a jog, or on a bike ride. You have probably heard of athletes talking about getting into “the zone” while exercising. This is not a phenomenon reserved for professional sports players. It’s something anyone can take advantage of. A brisk walk, a refreshing swim, or even a relaxing yoga session might be all that’s standing between you, and your next great idea. The body and mind are connected, and using one to jump start the other is a two way street.
Listen to Music
Music has been a source of inspiration for millions of different creative minds. Music can trigger imagination in us. If you have some old favorite tunes, try listening to them and see if any new ideas arise. If you are looking to step outside your comfort zone, go exploring on music websites and services, and try something totally new. When someone talks about music inspiring them to create, I think many of us assume it must have been classical music, or something else that seems brainy. That does not have to be the case for you. Try dubstep, heavy metal, opera, bluegrass, R&B, or anything else that gets you thinking. As long as it gives you ideas, it’s working!
You have authors, reporters, and screenwriters you admire. Now is the time to look to them for a little inspiration. Go back and re-read some of your favorites, and consider what it is about them that makes them so interesting. Is there any way you can incorporate those aspects into your own writing? Is there a point of view, a setting or a time period that you want to explore further? Likewise, it can be just as inspiring to go and read something entirely new. It’s possible that your old favorites are limiting your thinking in some way. Experiencing an entirely new writing style can open up your mind to new directions and new ideas. It doesn’t have to be a novel either. Read a movie review, a blog post or a news article, and see if there is any part of it you find intriguing enough to write about.
Sometimes it feels like having a roof over your head is also putting a roof on your ideas. Get out into the sunshine, or into the rain and just see where it takes you. If you feel like lying in a hammock, do it. If you feel like playing football, do it. Whatever needs to happen to get your mind out of its rut is fine. Everything is different when you first step outside, and simply observing those differences can lead to inspiration. A shot of cold air, the sound of a passing train, or a bird circling in the sky could the the beginning of a story. A simple change of scenery can also change your mindset, and take your imagination in new directions.
Do Anything But Write
You may often hear advice from other writers saying that the only way to get through writer’s block is to just keep writing. No matter how bad, or uninspired it is, the way around it is to push through. I respectfully disagree. Giving yourself the leeway to get up and do something else for a while takes a whole lot of pressure off you. We all have deadlines, but sometimes writing motivated solely by its due date is lousy writing.
Maybe you’re distracted because you’re hungry. Giving yourself permission to go grab a sandwich is going to create a more relaxed work environment, because you know you’re not being held to unreasonable rules. Maybe you’re having trouble writing right now because it’s noisy. Giving things an hour to settle down might make all the difference in your creativity. Maybe you’re anxious about a phone call. Wouldn’t it be better to just pick up the phone, get it over with, and get back to your writing later, with a clear head? It doesn’t always have to be about writing at all costs. Sometimes simply backing off is all you need to do. The writing will come easier when you are not under duress. You are your own boss when you write. You are allowed to be a nice boss.
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