Whether you're a novelist, a screenwriter or a songwriter, you've got a story in there, you just know it. On various occasions in any given time period, a couple of lines, a snippet of dialogue or a whole scene comes to fruition in your mind, but you can never seem to tie it all together. I like to call it a form of long-term writers' block and it hits all of us at some stage, whether we write novels, blogs, songs or poetry. Getting out of an episode of writers' block is not easy, by any means, but maybe the key to garnering new ideas is recognising inspiration when you see it - and then acting on it asap.
I get asked about inspiration a lot and I've talked a little bit about acting on it when it hits you in a recent blog post. There's nothing worse in writing than when a spark is lit out of the black and what follows, later on, is painstaking regret when you realise you've completely forgotten the whole idea.
But inspiration is everywhere and we just have to know it when it happens. Last Saturday night as I’m writing this, I was up until gone 2 am, furiously tapping out an idea that hit me with the joy and anticipation of something great, for the first time in what felt like years. It started when I was lying in bed, listening to some music, seriously considering the prospect that inspiration may never hit me again, ever.
Giving up on racking my brains, I decided to simply concentrate on the lyrics of the song that was playing and think about those instead. After all, I knew I was going to get to sleep any more easily. Eventually, and almost as if by magic, something came to me. A new project, something I could actually believe in. Inspiration was present in the words of the song and my recognising it was the catalyst for this exciting new venture.
Since then I've been thinking about all the different places inspiration can be present in and thought I'd share some suggestions with you in the hope that they might help you too.
Poetry: Maybe poetry isn't your thing, but by reading a couple of stanzas of something that sounds interesting to you, you could open up a whole wealth of ideas. It could even be a couple of lines that stand out - just look into the words, figure out what they mean to you and see what happens.
Coffee shop conversations: oh yes, I'm unapologetically suggesting you do a little bit of eavesdropping (for the right reasons!). It's no wonder you see so many people at the tables with notebooks and electronics splayed out in front of them. A coffee shop is an internationally-recognised, productive environment for the masses and you can bet a lot of their customers will be listening out for ideas to form a great story.
Film and television: Visual triggers in films and TV shows can be powerful for the mind. Things on television and in theatres always have a creative mastermind behind them - somebody who thinks just the way you do. Expose yourself to everything from news stories, to psychological dramas and rom-coms, and pay attention to the story. How has the scene has been set up? How is the actor behaving? Is there anything missing? Could you have done anything better yourself?
Song lyrics: Even the strangest of lyrics must have a clear story or source of inspiration behind them, even if it's not all that understandable at first. Like before, there's a creative at the helm of this product and something had to have inspired them, right?
Go somewhere: down the street or to a completely different country, getting out of your usual environment is a great way to pick up ideas for a new project. Just take in what your senses are registering and note down anything that comes to mind.
Word-vomiting: Not the nicest way of putting it, I know, but it's true. When you get those random tidbits, jot them down somewhere and keep hold of them for later. One of the most common pieces of advice given to writers suffering from writers' block is to simply write. Write whatever comes into your head and work those creative muscles back into shape.
I hope these tips help you reconnect with your inspiration in one way or another. If you want to read more like this or you run a blog, I've also got a detailed article on specific ways to find inspiration for writing blog posts.