Today, I’m talking inspiration. Why? Because it’s pretty freaking important.
Like, really freaking important.
It’s one of the critical tools of being a writer (along with a pen and paper…those are important too). You need the idea, the spark, to start the story. There has to be thought behind the scribbles on the page.
The tricky thing is that, unlike paper or pens, you can’t just make a run to Staples to buy more inspiration. You need to search for it, tend to it, feed the flames inside.
Basically, you need to be Van Pelt from Jumanji, and refuse to surrender until you bag your prey.
So how does one hunt down inspiration? Is there a watering hole where they congregate? A nest you can track them down to? A hive?
Yes, there is.
Here’s Where Inspiration Hides:
- Other Books
Yes, ideas hide inside other ideas, like Russian nesting dolls. So if you’re reading a book, and something inspires you to write your own story, it’s not plagiarism, it’s inspiration (well, unless you actually steal the prose from what you’re reading. That’s plagiarism). Read, consume stories and hunt ideas. You’ll be surprised by what pops out at you.
- Scenic Vistas
I am a big believer in the power of taking a walk. Taking a walk fixes everything (except broken legs. I tried to walk on that…it did not end well). Whenever I need to give my brain a break, or recharge my batteries, I let my feet choose where to go and just wander. Frequently I’ll stumble on something new and discover a part of my hometown I hadn’t seen before. I take pictures, I scribble in my notebook, I listen to music. More often than not, something will strike me, and I will look forward to going home and getting back to my writing.
I endorse the power of knowledge. What can I say, I’m a super nerd. I love learning new things and expanding my mind. It makes me near-unbeatable at Trivial Pursuit (bwahaha, they shall never defeat me!). So my idea of a relaxing weekend is making a visit to my local museum (any museum, I’m not particular) and learning something new, or seeing something I’m already familiar with at a new angle. Sometimes inspiration will strike you while you’re staring at a painting, or watching a planetarium show, or studying the anatomy of a cephalopod, or reenacting your favorite scenes from Night at the Museum (maybe that’s just me). Search out new things, rediscover familiar ones, just change the scenery and see what strikes.
Dear Spotify, one day I will probably owe you royalties…
Confession: I have terrible taste in music. I also don’t listen to the radio (since I no longer drive a car), so I am embarrassingly behind on music. Hell, my iTunes is mostly filled with Broadway soundtracks, Britney Spears, and Fall Out Boy, all stuff I listened to in high school. So I rely on Spotify to mix up my soundtrack while I’m working, essentially playing musical roulette to find something to work to. And more often than not, I stumble on something that melodically/lyrically/vocally sparks something that could be a story (or at least the end of the scene I’m struggling through).
There are a lot of ways to get news: newspapers, TV, internet, podcasts, Buzzfeed. And there are a lot of stories out there, some depressing, some inspiring, some just weird. Find the ones that call to you.
- Your Own Life
Chances are, you’ve started a conversation with, “You will not believe what just happened to me…” So use it as the springboard to write a story. Hell, if your trip to the grocery story was missing an alien invasion, nothing’s stopping you. Write some aliens into the frozen food aisle.
- Other People
Just talk to other people. Try it. You’ll be surprised.
Granted, everyone’s different, and everyone has their own way of finding inspiration. These are just things that I’ve found to work for me time and time again. But there’s no wrong way to get an idea.
So sound off in the comments: what inspires you?