As writers, we’re all fueled by creativity. We need it to fill in that foreboding blank page, to wow those executives in that pitch meeting, to finish the outline for that new idea, and so on and so on and scooby dooby doo-by.
Without it, we’re just like… I dunno… Regular people.
Unfortunately, that creativity runs dry sometimes. Even for the best of us.
And refueling takes more than just a spin downtown to fill up the tank and grab a lottery ticket and a Chocodile. Maybe clean the windshield, check the oil, and…
Perhaps I’ve taken this analogy too far.
The point is, if you don’t already know how to stoke the flames of your imagination, it’s time to workshop your own personal recipe and commit it to memory for the next time you have to get cooking.
And the next time after that.
The desire to tap into an elusive imagination can be borne out of various needs, which might necessitate different, unique ingredients.
In some cases, you’re stuck within a particular scene you’re writing, and need a very specific solution to a very specific problem.
What then? Specifically?
If it’s an action beat, I’ll sometimes doodle the blocking on a piece of paper and literally take a look at my options. Stick figures are fine. Arrows and diagrams a plus.
You can do the same thing with a salt and pepper shaker. Maybe arrange everything on the dining room table to help inspire your characters’ next moves. Shift them around, swap their starting places. Bring in dessert.
Other times I’ll walk the dog, but skip the headphones and music. Just some fresh air and physical activity to help brainstorm through a jam. If it’s the end of the day, it can help to start actively thinking about the problem you’re trying to solve as you close your eyes to sleep.
Let your subconscious do the heavy lifting.
A classic inspirational location is the bathroom. So many ideas come from visits to everybody’s favorite mental sanctuary. Here, your next sentence or piece of dialogue might materialize during the soothing storm of a hot shower, or perhaps while you’re perched on the throne. Inspiration isn’t snobby like that.
But what about when you’re starting from zero? When you’re trying to figure out what your next new project will even be?
Here, the world is your oyster (or, if you’re a vegetarian, the world might be your Brussels sprout).
The seed for your next story might come out of an overheard conversation, a memory from childhood, or even a trip through the local museum.
Early in my post-collegiate career, a fellow writer friend and I would go into book stores for inspiration. Just the place itself, teeming with stories and imagination would prime the pump. But, more specifically, scanning shelves and shelves of titles and cover images would inspire entirely original ideas.
A fertile aisle was the biographies, which could spark the notion of a fictional politician/athlete/magician/war hero/etc. Perhaps a biopic.
Some people get their best ideas at the beach, or a park, or even a crowded coffee shop. Like writers themselves, no two recipes for creativity will be exactly the same.
Regardless of your particular formula, though, you should always be ready for inspiration to strike when you least expect it. And consequently, you should be ready to get it down.
I still keep a pen and paper on me at all times, but you can also get those ideas onto your phone. Memo, dictate, text… Whatever it takes to keep the magic from slipping through your fingers.
In short, make sure to give thought as to what works best for you. Where do you stumble upon your best ideas? What are you doing, listening to, or watching? Remember these things. And the next time you find yourself in a creative jam, you can reach out to these firestarters to help fuel the next breakthrough.