Finding Inspiration in Weird Places

Sometimes we all feel uninspired. We drag our feet to the computer, open up our latest project, and stare at the blank screen. After a while we get bored of staring at the blank screen and start checking our email and reading our RSS feed, and before we know it it’s midnight and we haven’t written a single thing.

Situations like this can go on for days, weeks, even months if we’re not careful.

To break out of this endless cycle of non-productivity, often all we need to do is shake up our routine. Writing is an art, and art is best inspired by living differently. Allowing yourself to get stuck in a rut financially, emotionally or socially often stifles your writing life.

The next time you get stuck, try breaking out of your life routine. Here are a few ways I’ve found unexpected inspiration:

1. Read a graphic novel. Or two. Or three. If you’re like me, you might have read ten or eleven graphic novels and a handful of manga in your whole life. It’s a shame, really. Graphic novels are one form of storytelling that we often snub our noses at, but it can be just as powerful–more powerful for certain stories–as any literary fiction. Graphic novels often feature stories that rely heavily on the visual component and might not even work without it. And they’re often humorous.

I read two graphic novels over the weekend–one of the best perks is that they’re mostly images, so reading them is a breeze–and quite enjoyed them. Now, on Monday, I’m feeling inspired and ready to get started on my novel edits. The graphic novels had almost nothing in common with my novel-in-progress, but they still inspired me and recharged my creative batteries well.

2. Record your dreams. Every writer should make at least a half-hearted attempt to keep a dream diary. Keep a notebook by your bed and when you wake up, write down anything memorable from your dreams. Sometimes you’ll find small elements of a dream which could help you tell your stories. Other times, the dream itself will be a story ready to be told. The novel I drafted during last year’s Nanowrimo originally came to me as a dream. The dream told the whole story in a skeletal way, and my novel draft simply filled it out and made it better.

Not every dream will be a novel waiting to be written, and not every writer will have a dream they turn into a novel–but just in case, make sure you have a notebook by your bed. You never know what your dreams will contain.

3. Get out of–or into–the city. If you’re a city kid like me, you could probably benefit from some fresh air. The kind of fresh air you can’t get without driving an hour or two away from the city. Beg, bribe or plead with your family to plan a camping trip or a cottage trip. Ask to be kept as a stowaway when your best friend’s family goes to the cottage. If you have some money saved up, spend it on a trip out of town. It’ll do wonders for your mind.

Conversely, if you’re a small town kid, maybe the city’s what you need to get inspired. Maybe you need to walk around at 3AM, amazed by how many lights are still on. Maybe going to a club you’d expect to see one of your characters in will help inspire you. Find a way into the city–there’s no more complete way to shake up your routine that I can think of.

These are just a few ideas to help you get out of a rut and back into your story. There are dozens of ways to change up your routine, and how we can change it–and how much we can change it–without damaging our finances or sanity varies from person to person. When you’re stuck, the important thing to ask yourself is how can I break out of my routine and find some inspiration?

What are a few of the weirder things you’ve done to find inspiration?

2 thoughts on “Finding Inspiration in Weird Places

  • Very good tips for breaking the habitual rut many of us find ourselves in at one time or another. I’m still trying as well at finding things or ways to keep myself motivated especially with writing. One thing that my little boy had suggested was for us to get out of the house each day. Even if it’s just going for a walk or sitting outside on the deck enjoying the day or star gazing at night sometimes. This kind of goes along with number 3 on your list, so I guess great creative minds think alike. Great post! 🙂

  • Hi Michelle,

    Discovering ways to stay motivated is always a learning process–and different tactics work better for us at different times in our life. I think it’s great that you’re letting your son be part of the process and listening to his ideas–a lot of parents underestimate how observant and intelligent kids can be.

    I’m thrilled that you enjoyed this post and that you do something similar to #3 on your own–maybe next time you get stuck you should check a graphic novel out of your local library.

    Thanks for stopping by,

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