Photo does not belong to N.S. Used with rights from pexel
I think for most practiced writers it’s common knowledge that, when you’ve been depleting your stores of inspiration, you have to make time to replenish your creative well. It isn’t easy and it’s certainly not fool-proof. Some things that replenish my well don’t do it every time. We all have different things that work and there’s always an experimental phase where you have to figure out what will work for you.
While you’re experimenting, checking out the methods other writers use is always a good place to start. As a group we’re creative creatures, so while you may be feeling uninspired, there’s bound to be someone out there in the writing world with something you can do to reinvigorate your imagination.
The first four items on the list are also the easiest and most obvious:
Read. It may well be a preconceived notion I have that I refuse to let go of, but I do not think you can be a writer if you aren’t also a (at least a part-time) reader. Reading gives you so much fuel to inspire yourself and teaches you so many things about the craft without ever seeming to do so on the surface. You’ll learn tone and style and structure without ever having to take notes. Read articles, and studies, and essays, and poetry. and fiction. and non fiction, and fanfiction. There is so much out there in the world just waiting for you to become absorbed in it. So get out there and do it! (And for those who struggle to sit and read, audio books are a great alternative!)
Listen to music. Vary what you listen to. Try out new types of music when you’re feeling especially uninspired. Wake up all those parts of your brain that are going untouched. Give your mind and heart something to mull over. Whether you prefer to write and listen to music simultaneously or you prefer to do them separately, music is an ocean of possible inspiration just waiting for you to dip your toes in. I consider listening to music to be the “drink lots of water” advice in the writing world. It’s good for everyone.
I think most writers tell each other to get outside more often, but it’s tried and true and worth mentioning again and again. Go outside. Feel the fresh air, touch the trees, dig your feet into the sand, run through the waves. The world around you is an amazing, fulfilling place. Go on a hike, take the time to enjoy the sunset, check out the stars for a while on a clear night. Make time for the world and it will open your mind to wonderful, challenging ideas. Plus, you can always take some awesome pictures while you’re out there! Photography is another big love in my life, and a day spent outside with a camera is always a welcome adventure in my book.
Film and television are always great methods of absorbing a lot of creative fodder in smaller chunks of time than it takes to read a book. Again, I recommend mixing up what you’re watching. Inspiration comes from unlikely places, sometimes, so be open to it wherever it’s willing to land.
Always remember to take care of yourself – outside of just making sure to replenish your creative well. It’s easy to get lost in a sea of deadlines and projects and personal goals and obligations and responsibilities, even when you aren’t also trying to write a whole world into existence. Remember to check out of the stress and heavy mental loads and pamper yourself. I, personally, can tell I am either happy or wildly stressed out or depressed when I find myself baking late at night. Taking some time away from the keyboard and the open documents and the binders and the outlines is important. You have to let yourself rest and replenish your own energy as much as your creative energy. So, sure, maybe baking a round of cupcakes at 2AM isn’t really the greatest idea for your overall blood sugar, but sometimes you just have to give in and enjoy life’s simple pleasures.
In an alternate universe somewhere, we can sit down and write our novels in a single day and print it out for edits by the time we’re ready for bed. In this universe, however, that’s not really an achievable goal. Don’t let yourself have expectations for success that are unattainable – down that road lies only disappointment. No idea will ever be good enough, no chapter will ever be right, no amazing accomplishment will ever satisfy you. The quickest way to dry up your well is to convince yourself it’s full of sand. I’ve been writing for almost twenty years and I’ve finished a few novels, had some poetry published, and collected more fragments, ideas, and crappy poetry than anyone ought to ever know about, but does that mean I’ve done better or worse than someone with a published novel or someone who is just beginning? No. My pace, my style, my process – these are not things that I can equate to others. It’s so important to keep in mind that *everyone* does things differently and that’s completely okay. There is no reason to measure your success against the successes of others. Write the best way you know how, challenge yourself to push a little harder and do a little better than you did the day before, but don’t ever, ever, ever allow yourself to think you aren’t keeping up with someone else. You’re not in a race. Relax, take a deep breath, congratulate your fellow writer on their success and let it serve as a reminder to you that you can do this. There will be a day when it is you who is announcing an amazingly productive day, the completion of a first draft, or a book deal, or a big release.
Indulge in other hobbies. Whether you just can’t get enough sketching done to satisfy your creative urge, or your knitting needles are calling your name, make sure you make time to fit other things into your life that you enjoy. Everything we do feeds into our creativity, even in small, unnoticeable ways, so make sure you’re giving all of your hobbies a chance!
Dabble in what you write. Maybe you aren’t especially inspired to work on your novel right now, so try out some poetry! Write a haiku or an epic and see where the wind takes you. Or maybe you’re tired of poetry and are looking to get your feet wet in the realm of micro-fiction or short stories. If you normally write non-fiction but are feeling restless, try writing a horror story based on real events or make up a new planet in another universe and write something completely silly. The options are limitless and the only thing keeping you from exploring them are your own restrictions on what you can do. What do you do about that? Allow yourself to get carried away. Tell yourself that you have no limits. Challenge yourself to write a little of everything. See what untapped inspiration you may have stored away inside of you.
Most importantly, above anything and everything I’ve already listed, is this: SAVE ALL OF YOUR IDEAS. Wake up at 4AM with some wild dream that leaves you feeling like you have unfinished work? Write it down. Out having dinner with your significant other and something about the way a couple across the room is looking at each other makes you consider a relationship dynamic? Write it down. Watching a movie and suddenly you get an idea for a setting? Write it down. There are so many options for this – whether you use a note app on your phone, a notepad you carry with you, random scrap paper, email it to yourself, or any other means, just make sure you do it. I use Hangouts to send myself messages (from my personal account to my writer-media account), in addition to a note app on my phone, and usually a notebook in my purse. No matter how trivial or incomplete an idea is, I jot it down. You won’t believe how convenient this is until it works out in your favor but trust me.
Be open to new adventures and experiences. Try to be as active in your own life as you want to be in your writing. Make time for things. And never give up.