Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thursday's Children - Tracking Down Inspiration

There's a great quote by Jack London about inspiration.

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."

To a certain extent, I absolutely agree with this. If you don't actively go after your goals, you won't achieve them. As much as I wish it would some days, that book isn't just going to write itself. I need to sit my butt in front of my computer and actually work.

However, that said, sitting down at the computer without even a glimmer of inspiration is pretty much pointless for me. And sometimes, that inspiration is really hard to come by. But that doesn't mean that I have a free pass to go do something else. I have deadlines I need to meet, and sometimes the words just aren't there when I'm ready to write, so I need to find my inspiration. To do this, I need to work with what inspires me.

My top tactics involve music, visual imagery, going for a walk or a drive and showers.

Music is a pretty obvious one. Setting up a playlist that goes with the story I'm working on is invaluable.  It can help evoke the mood I want to convey and it comes with the great side effect of blocking out environmental distractions. But there's something even more magical about music. Even if I'm not actively focused on listening to the music because I'm writing, it's still making its way into my brain and creating subconscious connections and ideas that work their way into the story. Sometimes I do fine with music with lyrics other times I need instrumental arrangements. Find what works best for you.

Visual images are also helpful when it comes to story inspiration and why Pinterest is such a fantastic tool for me. Photographs and other artwork are a great jumping off point when it comes to settings, people and objects you might be describing. Now I'm not suggesting that you troll for images and insert those exact descriptions into your story, although, you certainly could. But I am suggesting that you look for images that convey the feeling you're looking to incorporate into your story. Using those images as a starting place can help give your story depth and guide it in new and exciting directions. Keep in mind that Pinterest is a giant rabbit hole that can be difficult to climb out of, so definitely consider setting a time limit.

Sometimes the best thing I can do when I'm looking for inspiration is to get away from my computer. Going for walks or a drive in the country or out to the lake shore is great way to free your mind. One part of your brain is concerned with the mechanics of driving or walking, but it requires a differnt sort of concentration. You're basically on autopilot while in another corner of your brain, your story is tumbling over and over like rocks in a polisher and eventually the polished gems of inspiration are going to tumble out and you'll be able to set them into your story. Now, I'm not suggesting that you completely zone out while you're walking or driving - that's just dangerous. And stupid. And I'm not a fan of either, but it is possible to do both. However, if you get an idea worth writing down, please stop/pull over before jotting it down in your notebook.

The shower is another great place of inspiration for me. If I'm not rushing to get out the door, I get the best ideas in the shower. In our house, we call it visits from the shower faery. It's the same sort of thing as getting ideas while you're walking or driving - your body is on autopilot freeing your brain to roll around and make connections that it might not have otherwise made. Also, there's something about water that helps loosen the subconscious which is why I like to hang out by lakes when I'm working on a book. But the shower is a great substitute if I can't get away. I get so many great ideas in the shower that I actually have a waterproof notepad mounted to the wall in there. It's one of the best gifts I was ever given.

This isn't even close to a comprehensive list of all the things you can do to chase down inspiration (or you know, lure it close enough to club) but these are the things that work for me. I'd love to hear what works for you. How do you get inspired when the words aren't flowing?


  1. We get a lot of inspirations the same way. Walking, artwork/images, spending time near the water (the ocean inevitably finds its way into every story I write too). I adored your rock tumbler analogy-genius!

    1. Thanks - I'm glad you liked it! :) Right now, I have a story that's tumbling nonstop. I'm just waiting for the gems. ;)

      The closest I can get to an ocean are the Great Lakes, but they are spectacularly inspiring. Where do you live?

  2. Great post! I LOVE LOVE LOVE that quote! Thanks for joining us. Glad the badge works ;-) Kristina x

    1. Thank you! :D I fell in love with that quote as soon as I saw it!

      I also love the badge - it's perfect!

  3. Great post! I always find I get inspired when I'm away from the computer, even just going for a short walk.

  4. Thanks EL! I need to make more time for walks - even short ones. :)