Whether you’re mid-novel or just starting out, “inspiration block” is a problem everyone faces at some point in their writing process. Are you struggling to develop believable character backstories? Does your brain grind to a halt whenever you contemplate your magic system? No matter the issue, you can use the following inspiration hacks to brainstorm, get your thoughts together, or simply reboot your creative side.
1. People Watch & Eavesdrop
No, not in a creepy way. Please don’t get out your telescope re: that Friends episode with Joey and the neighbor across the street. Rather, plop yourself down on a park bench, in a coffee shop, or anywhere people gather. How do people interact with their environment? Strangers? Their favorite barista? Make note of body language, mannerisms, and language. Observing people “in the wild” will help inspire more organic dialogue and character behavior in your own work.
2. Read a Book
Although it sounds counterintuitive, reading a book can have a marked effect on your own productive output. Read your favorite books, new books by favorite authors, and entirely new authors! Break down the way they write; their technique; their story construction. Studying stories on a technical level will force you to identify both what you like and dislike in things like tropes and character personalities. Learn and be inspired from other people’s success! (Just be careful not to inadvertently plagiarize if reading in the same genre.)
3. Analyze Your Dreams
Keep a “Dream Journal”, simple notepad, or voice recorder near your bed and jot down your dreams as you wake up (both physical tools or app equivalents work for this exercise). While some dreams might be outrageous or ridiculous, even within the bizarre perhaps there’s a character to be pulled or a setting to be incorporated into your next book. Your subconscious is doing some heavy lifting while you snore away, so take advantage of it!
4. Clean Out Your Junk Drawer
I mean, yes, this is also a fantastically productive means of procrastination. But see what you find. Is there a collection of old coins? 25 bottle caps from a specific beer? Tattered photographs of barely recognizable family members from generations’ past? Consider how these might relate to your characters. Do they carry these items? Do they always drink this beer when loitering at the biker bar on the far side of town? Is your setting from the early 1900s and your poor character will have to suffer through this decade’s fashion style? Find miscellaneous items and use these to help brainstorm your characters’ stories.
One highly effective strategy for defeating inspiration paralysis is to freewrite. Take a pen, sit down, and just write. Anything and everything that comes to mind. Stream of consciousness writing eases you back into writing mode, and while much of what you write may be utterly useless, you may still discover a helpful nugget or two. Best case scenario, you end up spitting out an entire relevant scene after getting the “Good god I hate this, why did I decide to become a writer?” rant out of the way.
6. Bounce Ideas Off a Friend
Simply rambling at a sympathetic friend for 15 minutes can trigger an inspirational breakthrough (whether or not they understand your current sticking point). No friends lurking about waiting to help? Try talking aloud to yourself. Audibly processing that problematic scene, character, or bit of dialogue through a new format may be just what your brain needs to devise a solution.
7. Ask “What If?”
While you may have a predetermined direction for your storyline at this point, consider the idea that you may be stuck because your story isn’t meant to go that way. Ask yourself “What if?” What if your setting was in the Arctic, rather than a standard four season environment? What if your MC made out with their crush this second, rather than letting the tension fester? What if your beloved secondary character stabbed your MC in the back (literally or figuratively)? Allow the What If’s to release your creative mind from the enforced storyline and flow in directions you hadn’t previously considered. While you may not go with a complete overhaul of your secondary character’s motivation/backstory/general demeanor, perhaps your story just needs a slight pivot to start up again.
Pressure to come up with new ideas, fresh twists, and exciting storylines can be an absolute drain on your creative well. Don’t give up! You started your WIP because you loved the initial concept, your story’s world, or your MC (who may or may not be stabbed in the back by your beloved secondary character). I hope these inspiration hacks help reignite your writing flow, and be sure to check back soon for more writing tips and tricks!
Have you used any of these inspiration hacks before? Do you have another go-to method for sparking creativity? Let me know in the comments below!