A common question creatives of all kinds face is “where do you find ideas?” This question comes not only from curious fans, but also other creatives. Everyone has their own method, and everyone occasionally has a slump where that method fails them or isn’t inspiring as usual. That creative block is frustrating to artists and can feel like we’ve lost our life’s rudder.
If you’re facing a creative dry spell and can’t seem to get back on course, here’s a few ideas on how to rekindle your inspiration:
Pinterest - this site started out as a picture-sharing site, but has since morphed into a picture-driven shopping site. If you can ignore the aggressive linking to store sites and the plethora of ads cluttering up the feed, it’s still a great place to find lovely art and writing prompts. There’s bound to be a few that spark a story snippet. You can also make boards to store all those inspiring photos in one place.
Tumblr - like Pinterest, this is a picture-centric site, but without all the tricks designed to make you buy, buy, buy. It’s designed to encourage interaction between users and some of those discussions can evolve into great story ideas. If you’re looking for something unexpected, this is the place.
Movies and TV - there’s no better way to get your brain thinking than to dissect the work of others, and the audio-visual smorgasbord of film is perfect for that. Some of my best ideas popped into my head while watching someone else’s creation. The whole idea of The Veil Society (vampire, werewolves, and witches, oh my) sprang from how gracefully Ank-su-namun walked across a room in The Mummy. My Witches of Lewyn series came from my girl-crush on Maria from 1999’s Roswell, and Max Egan, Monster Hunter evolved out of the video game Devil May Cry. None of these characters or storylines are anything like the inspiration material, yet they served as a vehicle to get my thinking on the right track. The next time you watch your favorite show or movie, pick one element and ask yourself a few “what if” questions and see where it leads.
Books - you’ve heard it before: the best way to learn how to write is to read, read, read. And it does do a lot to teach you syntax, grammar, and story structure. That, in turn, can help you develop your own ideas. Don’t be afraid of accidentally copying someone else’s idea, but rather let how one person treated a story inform your own. Much like with movies and TV, take something you really like about a book - a fantastic setting, a beloved trope, a character archetype - and ask those “what if” questions again. Take the magical school concept of Harry Potter and ask “what if they were college students, with a dash of The Witch and the Wardrobe” and you get The Magicians. Modernized, retold, or relocated (Cinderella in space) fairy tales also fall under this method. Think about a book you really loved. How could the story be changed by switching the setting, using a different protagonist, or twisting a trope in a new way?
Exercise - getting your blood pumping also gets your mental wheels turning. Exercise is a great palette cleanser for the mind and opens up your creative channels. Many writers say their best ideas came while strolling around the neighborhood or on the treadmill. Focusing your attention on physical effort allows your subconscious to relax and roam, slowly bubbling up unique and compelling ideas.
Doing nothing - literally. Just sit still. Don’t think about work or worries or housechores or anything. Clear your mind and just be. It’s a lot like meditating, but rather than focusing all your effort on purposefully thinking of nothing but breathing, you don’t focus at all. Let your subconscious decide what it wants to ruminate on. Daydream and let the ideas form naturally.
These are just a few methods I use when my creative well runs dry. You might have to try a few before you find the one that works for you. Above all, don’t fear following an idea just because it’s “too close” to someone else’s. There’s a limited amount of tropes and archetypes, but no one can combine them or describe them like you. Your voice is what makes your stories unique, not their “originality”.
What’s your favorite way of getting the ideas flowing again? I’d love to hear your tips.
Until next time,