Even if you love writing more than anything, you will have your days where struggle. Whether it’s being able to come up with new and exciting topics and ideas or finding ways to articulate your jumbled thoughts, below are 9 ways you can fuel your imagination, compile your thoughts and get back to being the boss ass writer that you know you are.
1. Change up your scenery.
Although it may appear to be a Hollywood cliché, there’s usually a reason why you often see people tapping away on their keyboards at a coffee shop.
For writers, there are many benefits that come from changing your scenery. Research shows that exposure to different environments actually changes the neural pathways in your brain. “This means that exploring new places can boost your ability to leap between diverse ideas and make richer mental connections between ideas.”
A change in scenery stimulates the mind — leaving you more inspired and allowing you to become more open-minded towards new ideas. You’ll easily be able to spark connections between old ideas and new.
Next time you feel a bit stifled, head to the local cafe, a beach, a park or even a different room of your home. Hire a hotel room for a night if you’re feeling like seriously treating yourself.
On the next level, go travelling for a while. Be inspired by new places, peoples, sights and smells.
“Creativity involves breaking out of expected patterns in order to look at things in a different way.”
— Edward de Bono
2. Work on something else for a while.
I’ve recently read a few articles claiming that there really isn’t such a thing as writer’s block, but I’m going to call bulls*%t on that one.
If I’m writing, and can suddenly write no more, I call that being blocked.
“Writer’s Block” aren’t dirty words and there should be no shame in experiencing the feeling. After all, you’re only human and there are so many factors that can contribute to us hitting a wall.
What works for me is having several pieces of writing going at once (a novel, an eBook, several articles). It’s a little manic, but it works. This is because depending on the day and my energy, I find some projects are easier to contribute to than others.
I can stare at a blinking cursor on one piece of work for hours, but word-vomit 2000 words on another. It means that instead of contributing to one piece whenever I feel like it, I will contribute to one of my projects each day. I’ve increased my odds of being able to have something to write.
If you‘re feeling stuck, give yourself 10 minutes to contribute to a different writing project.
And if you don’t have another project to work on or don’t feel comfortable working on multiple things, simply spare a few moments to write on a completely different topic.
- Choose a person you know, and write a letter to them.
- Choose an interaction you had today, and write about what would have happened if it had gone horribly wrong.
- Write about your goals for the week or the year.
- Complete a short story (a couple of pages long) in a genre you don’t usually dabble in.
- Search for writing prompts online, pick one and go for it.
When you get your mind working from different angles you will find that you can unblock yourself and get back to your project at hand, feeling inspired and re-fuelled.
3. Read instead.
Reading is one of the greatest things a writer can do. Not only is it an incredibly enjoyable activity, but you will expand your vocabulary, explore different writing styles and learn from other writers.
Take note of the books and articles that you can smash through.
It’s important to recognise what excites you. This can often be important for writers and authors to gage what motivates them, because they are more inclined to complete their own projects if it’s something they genuinely enjoy working on.
Read in the genre you want to write in, but branch out and be inspired by elements of other genres. Read articles on topics that interest you but also on topics you know nothing about — everything is connected and you never know what ideas may form through the variety of material you are feeding your mind.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or tools) to write.”
— Stephen King
4. Have a bank of ideas, ready to roll.
Let’s be honest, our potential “million-dollar ideas” usually come to us in the most inconvenient of times, catching us unawares.
In the shower, on public transport, or just when you’re about to fall asleep.
Make sure you capture every idea and every thought, even those that are half-baked. You can think about them properly later.
It’s important to have a bank of ideas that you can turn to when you’re in the mood to create. Reading through your notes can trigger an abundance of inspiration.
How To Come Up With a Year’s Worth of Content in One Day
For the days where you can’t think of a thing.
5. Compile a list of books & articles you want to read.
Create an account on Goodreads. Spend half an hour going through books that you would like to read, and add them to your virtual bookshelf. Take note of the plots and summaries that get your heart racing, the ones that you see are ‘must-reads’.
Then take note of why — why do these excite you?
Do the books in your to-read list have anything in common with one another? This activity will offer some guidance towards your own passion points, and illuminate the topics you would be motivated to write about yourself.
“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent.”
— Jim Jarmusch
Similarly for those who write articles and blog posts, spend an hour going through Medium and save a list of articles that sound fascinating to your reading list.
This activity will inform you of the topics that excite you, and may end up being the path you should venture down as a writer.
Your Idea Isn’t Original. And That’s Okay.
It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to.
6. Live a little.
Every experience you have becomes an experience you can write about.
Say yes to more events, more nights out, more things that scare you.
Build up a bank of experiences, emotions and memories that you can tap into whenever the mood strikes. Being able to call upon your own experiences when writing about something similar ensures you are inspired and can write about the topic vividly.
“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.”
7. Listen to music.
Nothing helps trigger my imagination more than listening to music. I’ll put my entire library on shuffle until something strikes a chord (no pun intended).
Different songs inspire me on different days. Something magical happens when you listen to music, and it almost always involves very little effort from your end.
8. Trust yourself.
Creative types are full of self-doubt — the two unfortunately often go hand-in-hand.
Too much doubt can cause you to freeze, and not produce anything because you feel that your work isn’t worth producing or sharing.
Know this isn’t true.
Learn to trust yourself, trust your work and believe in what you have to say, so the creative flood gates may open.
“The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.”
― Pablo Picasso
9. Do nothing at all.
The power of switching off and practising mindfulness and stillness should never be undervalued when it comes to inspiring ideas and encouraging creativity.
The more you zen out, the more you subconscious will come into play. Giving your mind a break will ensure that when it comes back to the task of writing, your subconscious won’t be scrambling through a clutter of thoughts. In all that mess, it may not be able to find those nuggets of gold.
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Build up your bank of inspiration.