Writers, where do you get your inspiration? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
For a writer at heart, especially a fiction writer, everything—absolutely everything—is fodder, or raw material that can be shaped into a story. This can apply to people, situations, conversations, scenery, experience, and more. A writer’s subconscious never turns off. It is always collecting material and taking mental notes.
“Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.” ~Stephen King
How to view the world through the lens of a writer
1. Everything you see, hear, feel, taste, smell—everything you experience or observe—is material. Make it a habit to file it away for future reference.
2. Observe people. What do they say? How do they act? Do they have unique physical features, clothing, hairstyles? What are their mannerisms? How do they walk? Are they quieter than a cat? Do they stomp? Shuffle? How do they talk? Are they stiff, formal, casual? Do they use big words, slang, or bad grammar? Do they clip words or draw them out? Do they have an accent or use local colloquialisms? What is their age and profession?
3. Observe social interactions. How do people relate to each other? How do they act in public? How do you think they act in private? How do they feel in response to what someone has said? How do they show or not show this?
4. Observe scenery. How can you describe a pulsing downtown core, a fine restaurant, the countryside, the seasons? Look at photos and paintings. They may inspire mood and setting, which may lead to a scene.
5. Apply all the senses in your writing, not just what you see. Pay attention to mood. Make us hear the traffic or the silence, smell the grass or the blood, taste the sweat or the coffee, feel the pain, both physical or emotional. Take note of your own sensations and practice putting them into words. Reproduce them in text.
6. Just write. Make jot notes in the moment. Always carry a notebook or electronic device in which to make notes. If you’re at a roadblock with your writing, take yourself out of the mindset that you have to perform, and write anything, off the record. Sometimes this sparks an idea for where to go next. Remember, you can always edit, cut, and refine later. Often the act of writing helps you to define and process your thoughts. It is discovery. It’s also natural to overwrite while you’re in this defining process. Too much information or wordiness can be removed during the rewrites. Don’t let imperfection stop you.
7. Sit in cafés. This gets you out and about, and gives you a chance to observe people, places, and situations.
8. Take a walk. Fresh air and walking are a tonic for idea generation. Take your notebook or electronic notepad!
9. Listen to people you interact with in your life. Their experience becomes your experience. Their feelings become your feelings. Remember your own feelings and perspectives at different ages in your life. Spend time researching attitudes, speech, or occupations similar to those of your characters. How do school children talk to each other? How do they phrase their speech? How do adults speak? What do elderly people talk about? What are people’s obstacles, goals, fears, coping strategies?
10. Listen to music, or practice some other form of meditation. Your brain needs to process. Do yoga, jog, cycle, take a shower. Do housework. There’s nothing like tedium to unleash creativity. I can never finish a load of dishes or clean a room without being distracted by ideas I must write down. It’s guaranteed that I will get a swarm of ideas when my hands are too wet to touch paper or the computer. Ditto when I’m rushing to get ready for work. Something about the adrenaline, I think. If this happens to you, give yourself an extra half hour so you can write down your scene or conversation before you leave home. Such raw, incomplete files also give you a starting point when you’re not sure what to write. They kick off the creative process and diminish writer’s block.
11. R&R: read and research. Read books in your genre, out of your genre, books on the crafts of writing and editing, and on the publication process, if that is your goal. Punctuation and conventions are part of communication. They are as important as the words themselves. Learn to use them to give your readers the full impact of your writing. Use strong nouns and verbs.
12. Make a folder of writing ideas. If you have thoughts or jot notes about genre, plot, character traits, names, descriptions—anything—save it. Organize folders in a way that helps you access the information when you want to use it, or when you need to find your muse.
You don’t have to go it alone
13. Take credible writing courses. They are sure to set off different perspectives and ideas, and the instructor can give you valuable feedback.
14. Connect with other writers at your local writers’ guild or library.
©2013-2016 Eva Blaskovic