Having a rough time getting started on a new project, or continuing on an existing project? Feeling stuck trying to decide what to blog about? Searching for your muse and finding her apparently out to lunch?
We all find ourselves stuck from time to time, so it’s always good to keep some ideas on hand to get our creative juices flowing. Here are seven of my favorite ways to spark creativity or to push myself a little further when I need a push. Books have been written full of such ideas, so it is hardly an exhaustive list, but hopefully one may speak to you.
1) Change Your Perspective
I recently was listening to the radio and that classic Beastie Boys song from my early teenage years, “Fight For Your Right”, was playing. The big chorus is that you “gotta fight – for your right – to pppppaaaarrttty!!” I can remember being at a middle school dance where everyone was singing along. I didn’t really party, or fight for my right to party, but it was a bit of a shock for me to realize that I was no longer of the generation to fight for my right to party. I’m the parent my children will one day feel the need to challenge for their freedom. A shift of perspective can be eye-opening! Are you writing a story told from a teenager’s point of view? Play with the idea of seeing the story for another character, like the parent’s, point of view. Maybe your character is a doctor, think from the perspective of the patient. You may not use the perspective in your story, but it could add depth to overall effect of the scene.
2) Turn it Upside Down
Sometimes my kids bring home art projects that aren’t always clear what is featured in the picture or what is happening. More than once I’ve had the picture upside down and didn’t realize it. What if you take the story you are writing and flip it? Start writing the ending and move backwards. Take the scene and flip it, change it, move it around. If you are writing a poem, play with the form, or take a form and make it new by coming at it from another direction. Who knows where you’ll end up.
3) Make a List
I don’t know about you, but I can seldom go to grocery story without a list because inevitably I will forget the one item I went to the store for in the first place. Why not try making a list to jumpstart your creativity? Make a list of what you’d like to happen in your scene and write with the list in mind. Or write a list of words you like that would be cool to work into your story. Write a list of emotions, of colors, of locations, of types of animals, whatever floats your boat. Write a list of boats. Maybe you won’t use any of it, but writing the list may spark an idea or get you moving in a new direction.
4) Take a Break
Once in college I remember writing a paper, a big paper, and being the English major I was, I had put it off until the last possible minute. (I told myself I worked better on a deadline, but truth be told I was just a procrastinator.) This particular deadline was looming and I was stuck. I remember I finally just had to walk away from it. I didn’t take a long break, because there was a lot to finish, but just taking a short break, leaving the room and taking a moment helped me return with a new energy, and a fresh perspective. Sometimes we need to leave, take a walk, go to the museum, make a cup of tea, sweep the floor, or whatever takes our mind off the place where we got stuck. Maybe what we did in the meantime was stimulating, like the walk or the museum, or maybe it was just white noise, but either way taking a break can get you back on track.
5) Read the News
I haven’t had an actual newspaper in a long time, choosing the virtual news so readily available, but however you get your news, there is a wealth of story ideas all over. Read a personal interest story and spin out that idea into a whole new take on the original story. Check out a celebrity gossip story and base a side character on some ridiculous quality you see. Pay attention to a story about a natural disaster and set your story in that event. The possibilities are endless.
6) Follow Your Senses
I was recently out to dinner and tasted a bite of a fried chicken dish that immediately took me back to my childhood, growing up with my grandmother’s amazing fried chicken. Our five senses hold so many memories and associations. Think of one of those memories or associations wrapped up in one of your senses and then use that as inspiration. Write a story about the feeling you get thinking of the bright yellow walls that colored your grandmother’s kitchen and always felt so warm. Listen to a song that always brings back memories and use those feelings to color a scene. Is there a smell that is always especially foul to you? Make your villain carry that scent. Play with all the senses and see where you end up.
7) Look at a Picture
Several years ago, my mom, my sister, my cousin and I met for an informal writer’s group. We mostly ate brunch and drank coffee and caught up on our lives, but occasionally we would work from a shared writing prompt to each write something to share at our next meeting. One time we took a picture on the wall, gave the couple in the picture a name and we were to write a story about the couple based on the picture. It was great fun and every time we go back there, it’s fun to think of the stories we wrote about the picture. You can find the picture on the wall of your favorite coffee shop, in a book, in a museum or on a site like Pinterest, but wherever you find the picture, look for the story living there. What is that girl with the pearl earring thinking? What would happen after the soldier kissed the girl in Times Square? Sometimes I just take the mood of the picture and use that to influence the mood of my piece. Pictures can build tons of creative possibilities.
These are just a few of the many ways to spark your creativity. Do you have favorite ways to get your creative juices flowing? Tell us about it in the comments! Did you try one of these? Tell us about it in the comments, we’d love to hear (or see) the results. 🙂
Have a great – and creative – week!