For a while, whenever I got stuck in my writing I'd stare at the empty page or screen, thinking it would help. After about 20 minutes, I inevitably realized that this was a complete waste of time, and that almost anything else was better--if we're talking practical--and not even divine--writing inspiration. With the crisp fall chill in the air, and NANoWriMo month quickly approaching, you may be itching to write, but still feeling stuck or that you don't know where to begin. Here are 20 tips that have worked for me over the years... give them a try and share in the Comments if any of them worked for you!
1. Read your inbox. Inevitably, reading blogposts, ebook ideas, and enewsletters from others always gives me ideas of my own.
2. Take a walk and observe, then write down your observations. Observing cloud formations may sound nerdy, but it works.
3. Look through your or someone else's old photos and create scenarios for those pictured.
4. Explore Pinterest and Instagram, including new boards by those in your circles. Pinning and favoriting them will not only give you an online boost, but will give you an organic archive of inspirational ideas.
5. Speaking of Pinterest, start your own board of inspirational ideas for writing, add to it whenever you see a new idea, and invite others to Pin. Refer to it when you're stuck.
6. Write about your last plane flight, taxi ride, phone call, wedding, funeral, argument, or reconciliation.
7. Allow yourself to be a bad writer for 5 minutes. Write what you consider a lousy sentence or paragraph, and then go about revising and fixing it. This might put you in the mood for more.
8. Reread or re-watch your favorite book, film, or tv show, and jot down why it's your favorite. If you're a blogger, this could be a blog post.
9. Take advantage of the season, holiday, or special occasion for ideas, such as birthdays, anniversaries, National Ice Cream Day, whatever. Use this as a jumping off point for reflections, humor, anecdotes, etc.
10. Cook a meal and describe everything you did.
11. Keep an ideas notebook handy, so whenever inspiration hits, you're ready. I also like to use my iPad notebook feature, so everything is searchable via email and an index.
12. Go to a museum. Everytime I visit a museum, I get ideas, whether it's from the names of paintings or sculptures, or funky items from the museum shop. Sometimes I think about the artists, and when and where they were when they were creating.
13. If you're procrastinating, write about everything you're doing that is not writing. Presto! Then you'll be writing.
14. Get physical. Try a hike, bike ride, or run to get your creative juices flowing. Many famous entrepreneurs have coined the phrase "walk and talk." Try it on your own, or with a friend.
15. Write about someone you love or hate.
16. Write about someone you just met yesterday, and someone you haven't seen in 10 years.
17. High school, college, summer camp, "firsts" of any kind, can be fertile ground for ideas.
18. Eavesdrop on a conversation and reconstruct that person's life based on what you heard.
19. Bloggers ( and their readers) tend to like lists like this one, but lists can work in any kind of writing, and fiction as well. What kind of lists do your characters keep? Passwords? Groceries? Party or dinner guests? Daily activities or rituals?
20. Get in touch with your inner "meme" or vernacular. Most of us have catch-phrases and thought snippets we say to ourselves, sometimes without even realizing it. Some of mine are: "Back Atcha!" "Shows to go ya," etc. These are a great way to access your writing voice, and find what's unique about it. I just read Tom Hanks' New Yorker story, "Alan Bean Plus Four," and it's a great example of this specific language and its relation to character.
21. Think Windows. Real ones. Airplane windows, car windows, train windows, kitchen windows. It's impossible to stare out the window and not see something worth writing about.
Now, over to you...what are your best tips for writing inspiration?