We have all been there: you’re on a roll, creating like never before, feeling inspired every day, and absolutely convinced that your uninspired days are behind you. Is the feeling one of the best ones in the world? Absolutely. Does it last long? Absolutely not. Inspiration is fickle – it comes and goes as it pleases, and no matter how much you want it to stick around, it rarely stays for as long as you’d wish to. As unreliable as it may be, there are helpful tricks you can use that will get your creative juices flowing – here’s how:
Go back to your favorite books
A lot of times, we are just overwhelmed and in need of a break because stress is just too much. Sometimes, that break can come in the form of a brief walk or a nap, but at other times, we need to re-read our favorite book. This activity will make our brain relax and engage at the same time. Sounds confusing? It’s not really complicated – when you re-read your favorite book, your brain is actively engaged, creating images and letting your imagination run wild. Still, at the same time, it’s dealing with something familiar and comforting. Thus, you will feel productive while simultaneously relaxing, and by chapter five, you might have a few sentences to add to your writing without actively thinking about it.
Re-type someone else’s passage
In the movie Finding Forrester, when the young protagonist, an aspiring writer Jamal, expresses his frustration because he can’t find the right words, his mentor, William Forrester, asks him to re-type something he wrote. Forrester explains the idea: “Sometimes the simple rhythm of writing gets us from one page to two. When you begin to feel your own words, start typing them.” As strange as the idea might seem at first, you would be surprised how effective it is to simply copy someone else’s words until you feel your own coming. You might discover a different voice, a new perspective, or an unexpected angle for your own writing while dutifully copying the writings of literary masters.
Describe the world around you
When was the last time you wrote about what you can see, hear, and smell around you? Most likely not since elementary school, so this could be a valuable practice for you. On the days when you’re struggling to think about an interesting topic to write about, simply look around and observe your environment carefully. Regardless of where you are at the moment, focus on an item, a person, or an animal and write about it. Focus on including as many details as you can – it will help you be mindful of your surroundings and be present in the moment. Not only will this help you start writing when you’re feeling uninspired, but it’s an excellent practice that will help hone your attention to the smallest of details.
Forget about the world
In his book “On Writing,” Stephen Kind, one of the most prolific living writers of our time, stated that the best way to write your first draft is with the door closed. While he is known for his strict writing schedule and office, he is also aiming at something else: write your first draft without thinking about the world. Write for yourself, because it’s a wonderful idea and because it brings you joy. Too many writers procrastinate because of fear of others’ opinions and try to write something “for the audience” on their first try. Forget about other opinions for a while and write because it feels good, because it makes you happy, because the idea’s been haunting you for a while, and because you never know where the story is going to take you.
Find your writing space
Speaking of closed doors and writing offices, you should really try finding (or building) your own. Even though writing in bed might seem inviting and fun at first, it is just not something you can keep up in the long run. You have to find a place in your home where you can focus on your writing and nothing else.
Close the door behind you, play soft music (or don’t), place honeycomb cellular blinds on your windows if it’s too bright, get a lamp or two if it’s too dark, get a cup of coffee, tea, milk, or water, and clear your mind of distractions. While writing may be just a hobby for some, you want to approach it seriously, so ditch your phone and focus on your work.
Turn to the internet for help
If you feel like writing for yourself just isn’t good enough at one point, you can always ask others for help. While your friends and family might seem like a logical choice, a writing group might be even better. Such groups meet on a regular basis, and you will have a “deadline” to turn in new writing for others. Or, if writing groups might not be your cup of tea, you can find lovely writing prompts online that you can use to get a story idea or get a specific scene out of your system. No matter if you’re focusing on fiction, business, or poetry – there are prompts out there just waiting to help you become a better writer.
Ditch your goals for a while
While it might seem strange, try to forget about your writing goals for a while. Goals are great for inspiration because they provide you with an “endpoint.” While this might give you fuel in the beginning, this endpoint might seem unreachable when you get stuck in the writing rut for the first time. Habits are what you should focus on instead – they are the way to embrace your inspiration and make it a normal part of your writing process. So, instead of focusing on your imaginary 300-page novel that you are going to write someday, you should focus on writing 300 words or 30 minutes per day. This way, there isn’t a lot of pressure, and you are working towards your goals without feeling stressed.
Explore the power of music
While some find gentle background music stimulating, others find it distracting. Strangely, both are right, and it’s up to you to discover whether listening to music helps with your work or distracts you from it. Of course, different music genres have different effects on us, so the first step might be to pick a compilation that works for you: ambient, instrumental, sounds of nature, classical, jazz, Spanish guitar… Try out several before you settle on one, and if you start feeling like it’s not working anymore at one point, simply find another one. On the other hand, if you feel like music is just too distracting while you’re writing, listen to it before you start working and let your mind wander.
Find your time of day
Chances are, you are not as productive in the evening as you are in the morning, or vice versa. It can almost be set in stone: through the day, writer’s productivity levels wax and wane regardless of how successful they are. You might write thousands after thousands of words early in the morning but not be able to put together a passage right after lunch. Even if you feel comfortable at the moment, you should try experimenting with writing at different times of the day. Who knows, you might even be in for a pleasant surprise and discover that you can be even more productive than before. Once you have your good writing slot, do everything in your power to stick to it, even if it means writing on your phone if you’re not at home for some reason.
A.C.A.N. – Always Carry A Notebook
You wouldn’t believe how many famous authors throughout history carried small notebooks with them at all times. This is because, at those times, there weren’t smartphones, but there is something else at play. The physical act of writing your thoughts down is cathartic, it helps keep your mind focused while you’re using a pen or a pencil, and you can always doodle all over it when you have a different idea. A small notebook can fit into pretty much any purse or a pocket, and no matter when the inspiration strikes, you can always put down a great idea and not lose it forever. Of course, if you’re driving a car, simply record your voice instead of pulling over and writing – unless you’re really not in a hurry and the idea is so good that you have to stop, drop, and write it down immediately.
Don’t worry – when inspiration won’t come freely, you can invite it back into your life. As wonderful as it may be to be inspired and create freely, you have to be aware of the fact that it may not last as long as you’d want (or need). Still, when your life revolves around writing, it’s not like you can just sit idly and wait for your inspiration to come back. Fortunately, the tricks we mentioned here should be able to help you feel inspired, and thus, motivated to create.