PART TWO: REDISCOVERING YOUR INSPIRATION
Being a writer is scary business and what most people tend to ask is what project you’re working on now. But what if there isn’t any current project? What if you’re just pottering around and looking for inspiration? Well I’m here to tell you that inspiration is everywhere!
In my first-year creative writing class we were told that when a “normal” person looks at a tree all they see is a tree, but when a creative person looks at a tree they see a range of things: colour, shape, texture, smell, sound, life… We recognise that there are endless things happening inside, on, and around the tree. I’ve always found this interesting when thinking about inspiration. There is so much around us to be inspired by that we often don’t know where to look or even begin looking.
Here are some ways in which you can find inspiration today:
1.) Go outside. I mean it. Don’t just look out your window.
Like the tree analogy it’s always great to get outside, breath in the fresh air, and look around you at what you can see. There might be a bird zipping through a nearby tree, but how would you describe it? How would you get the motion, noise, and impression onto the page? Piri Eddy’s ‘The Bus Stop of Innumerable Displeasures’ is a great example of using this technique.
You could go for a walk and write about what you see. Write a walk poem and see where that takes you. Who would be walking the same route? Why? What would they be thinking of? Are they trying to reach something or someone? Or are they trying to escape?
2.) Go somewhere new
I always find that going somewhere new ignites creativity. You don’t even have to go far. You might just hop on a bus to the next town and have a wander. Just go somewhere unfamiliar. While you’re trying to find your way around you’re also trying to take in everything. Most times in fiction you have an outsider character, and this is a good way to embrace this situation by letting yourself get and feel a little lost. You’ll find you’re trying to take in everything at once and that’s just what your character is doing too!
3.) Talk to a stranger
Remember how as a kid you were always told not to talk to strangers? Do it. Every single person you know and have ever seen is a wealth of information on something. You just need to get them talking and find out what. Every single person you ever interact with can help you with your writing, even if you simply notice one mannerism that is somehow different or intriguing. You can use that in your writing. Think about what it means.
4.) Go people-watching
Similar to talking to strangers, but without having to talk. This is very much a sport for introverts. Those kids on the train discussing their friend’s girlfriend? They’re your inspiration. The babies learning to walk and talk? Doesn’t that teach you something? The strange Russian man on the street giving you dinner recommendations in your own town? He
is inspiring! Who is he? What is he doing here? Why did he come to Adelaide? These are all questions you can start asking yourself to ignite your creativity!
5.) Look up writing prompts
This is perhaps one of the easiest options. Use a prompt. There are plenty of generators online and the AWC does a monthly competition called Furious Fiction where you’re given an image and asked to write a 500 word short story beginning with what you see. If you don’t have access to the internet you can also use books, photos, and objects as a writing prompt. That blue zippo you saw on your walk home? Where did it come from? What’s it’s story? Was it dropped by accident? Was it thrown away? Did someone have a fight? Is this someone’s way of quitting smoking or cleaning up their lives? Or does it belong to someone who likes lighting fires?
6.) Have a conversation with your characters
Does this sound stupid? Maybe, but you’re a writer so who cares! You probably know that all your characters have their own unique voices, knowledge, and habits. Which means it’s safe to say they know more than you do when it comes to themselves. Whether you treat it as if they exist in a parallel universe or just in your head, you can always sit down and have a conversation with them. Sometimes it helps to do this on paper—and I wouldn’t be too worried if they start abusing you. They’re a part of you and what is a writer other than self- deprecating?
7.) Be your character
I like to pretend that I am my character sometimes. I do everything that they would do (within reason) and get a feel for how they think. If my character knows a language I want to know the language too. If my character likes science, I want to know all about their interest in science.
8.) Free write
The aim of free writing is to not overthink it. But guess what, you’re a writer and you’ll probably overthink it until you get used to it. Free writing is writing whatever comes into your mind without worrying about spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Sometimes this will be entirely useless, but other times you’ll strike upon a gem of a phrase, the start to a scene, or overcome a problem you’ve been trying to solve since you were eight years old. When you free write it can be about anything or anyone. There is no right and no wrong way to do it. You just write.
9.) Indulge in some other creative practice
Paint, sing, play guitar, sew, make something—do something that is creative but has nothing to do with writing. You’d be surprised (even if you’re not good at whatever creative pursuit you try) at how much it helps to reset your mind. Art is all about expression and when you can’t seem to express yourself in one way, you should try to do it in another.
10.) Read a provocative writing book/post
This is my little secret. Generally, the idea is you read something about writing to inspire you, instead I think you should read bad advice about writing which will provoke you. For
me it’s Harry Bingham’s How to Write, which I do not own on principle. I came across the book at my local library when I was doing my research project in high school. I’m not going to tell you that the book is bad, I haven’t attempted to read it since, but there were certain quotes and passages I found provoking. I found that this particular book goaded me and during a write-in with Writers SA I came across the book again. And again, it encouraged me to get things done. So, read books about writing. Get to know which ones are good, which are bad, and which motivate you to succeed.
11.) Hang out with other writers/creatives
In part one I discussed the idea of a writers group. This is something which is good in all three respects (time, inspiration, and motivation) because you’ll be constantly challenged by your peers. When you talk to other writers or other creatives in general about their work it tends to be inspiring. Certain words or phrases lead you back to consider your own work and how you could be as together and as motivated as your fellow writer.
12.) Have a shower
Showers are a good way to reset your mind and body. In the shower your mind will often drift, and you’ll find yourself considering problems and scenarios both in your everyday life and your character’s. In the shower you can plan the next steps of your writing and get clean at the same time!
With any luck some of the above points will help you to rediscover your inspiration. Inspiration can be tricky sometimes, but it’s never gone completely and there are plenty of ways to rediscover it.
Art by Rhianna Carr
Words by Kayla Gaskell
Kayla Gaskell is an Adelaide based writer and reviewer whose work has appeared in Empire Times, Readplus, Buzzcuts, Where’s Pluto, and now Tulpa.
OTHER PARTS IN THIS SERIES:
Part I: Finding the Time to Write