How to Find Inspiration

How to Find Inspiration

A Lesson by Imelda Blackheart
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It's exactly like the title says. It is one of my longer lessons, but it goes over many different techniques that can help you find inspiration whenever you're not stuck in the middle of the story, but without a single word on the page.

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  I recently read in someone’s biography that they were having some trouble actually getting inspiration to begin with. Now, know that although this inspired me to write this lesson, I realize that many other people appear to be having the same problem. Once upon a time, that used to be me. That was before I realized that there are TONS of different ways to dispel this… well, I suppose that it’s just a variation of writer’s block. You aren’t stopped in the middle of writing; you’re stopped before you even start writing, which might even be worse.
                But have no fear, for Imelda is here! I will rescue you fair writers from the jaws of the ghastly beast of the writer’s block abyss, and save your writing forever! Ok, I’m not that good. But some of these suggestions just might be able to help you, and since I believe that this is going to be the only lesson I write that involves beginning inspirations, it will most likely be significantly longer than any of my previous lessons. Ah, I sense you are hesitating. You are debating whether or not to continue reading. You doubt me! Alas, I am sorry to say that I cannot force you to read this entire work. I hereby bestow upon you the option of skipping around wherever you need to! There. I said it.
                Now, however, it is time to begin your training! Pull out your notebooks and prepare to take, well, notes! Very important notes! Notes that could affect your entire future! These notes… ah, who am I kidding. Just go ahead and read on.
               
                I have just decided that I will go in no particular order, so… yeah. Sorry about that.
                Since I am still a child at heart (and will remain forevermore so), I have decided that I will begin with one of my favorite suggestions, which is to play a game that involves strategy to stimulate your brain. These types of games can include chess or checkers, or any other strategy game that you could think of. But one of the best games to play doesn’t involve a lot of strategy, and I have dubbed it the, “Choose a Word Quickly and Connect it to Another Word” game, also referred to as the CWQCAW game. An example (that I’m making off the top of my head) is that blue may lead to pond, which leads to frogs, which leads to frog hunting, which leads to rednecks, which leads to why they are hunting frogs, and it can just go on and on until you decide to stop.
                Maybe I can gather my story from that idea, some of which I didn’t put down on this. Maybe those rednecks are actually very rich rednecks, but they were trying to teach their sons how to hunt frogs, but they had refused to teach the girl, so the girl snuck along. The girl was then taken by the spirit of the swamp that they were hunting in, and the redneck parents reveal that it was because they knew about the spirit that they didn’t want the daughter to go into the forest. This story then turns into a quest to rescue the girl by following one of the boy’s instincts, which were given to him by a dying frog.
                Okay, so maybe that isn’t exactly a novel-worthy idea. But I did
all of that just by thinking of one simple word and letting it wander around my mind. Do you see what I’m trying to say? 

                Well, now that we’ve finished up with that one, let’s move onto something different. People. There is so much inspiration to be gathered from the people who seem so boring when you aren’t paying attention to them, but many authors ignore that almost always present source of ideas. There isn’t just one way to find inspiration from the people around you. In fact, there are many ways. And yes, I am going to name all of them (at least I’ll name the ones I can think of at the moment).
                One of my favorite activities when I’m gathering inspiration from people is what I like to call “People Watching.” For best results, go to a busy public place where you have many varieties of people to choose from. These people will do many things; they can amuse you, fascinate you, and most importantly, inspire you. To some authors, and you may find yourself as one of them sometime in the future, that claim that there is nothing more inspiring than humanity.
                While you are participating in the act of people watching, you can have fun imagining a story about a random person’s life based on their appearance (in this case you can judge a book by its cover, or maybe the cover is just that- a cover), their attitude, or maybe just whatever they are doing at the time. If someone interests you enough, you have the option of following them, but I must warn you that the results will vary depending on what type of person you follow. In general, I wouldn’t recommend this unless you are VERY deeply intrigued by this person. So intrigued, in fact, that you couldn’t live without knowing what happened to them in the five minutes you didn’t see them.
                Another thing that is fun to do is overhear other people’s conversations. Whether it be at a park, a mall, or just your favorite coffee shop, if you’re anywhere public you have the ability to eavesdrop on people. Now, don’t do so in a gross way or anything, but you can just keep quiet and listen. I’m not sure about you, but I love hearing other people’s conversations. It isn’t always intentional- sometimes, you just can’t help but overhear people. If you happen to overhear a snippet of interesting dialogue, just jot it down as soon as possible. If can serve as inspiration or just a model in your later writing.

               
               
Speaking of jotting things down as soon as possible, this reminds me how important it is to have what I affectionately call my “Writer Writing World,” (there is a back story behind that, but it’s too long to explain right now), but you might call it a writing journal. I highly recommend this for any author. Know that it doesn’t have to be fancy, and that you aren’t required to write in it every day. That would be really boring, and if you’re like me, you would forget or just not have enough time.
Just write down certain thoughts, inspirations, quotes, or snippets of good writing you find. You might also include your pieces of dialogue you think of, or just new characters or plot ideas. You can go back to this journal when you find yourself in need of inspiration or ideas. Remember, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy; a plain notebook will do, but a nice journal can be motivating. (Kind of hard to explain why; you just have to experience it for yourself).
                Ah, but maybe you don’t want to have to carry a journal with you, or maybe you think that the ideas might come too quickly and you wouldn’t get them all written down in time before they vanished. It’s alright; I understand. I think that most of you have a phone, am I right? Many of these phones have some type of place where you can record anything (The iPhone, if I’m thinking correctly, has a Voice Memos app that comes with the phone), and, if your phone doesn’t, you might be able to get an app that does. The best app that I have found for this is Soundcloud, but just make sure that you choose not to publish it so everyone else can see it. But if you don’t have a phone, or you don’t have the option of a recording app, you can always go and purchase a small voice recorder, which you can buy brand new for $30-$500. If you don’t want to spend that much money but still want one, I would suggest getting one that is used. Unfortunately, I do not know of any good places to purchase them online, so you will have to find those for yourself.

                Now, all of these things may seem a little too difficult or time consuming. Maybe you’re the person thinking, “People watching, playing games; it just takes up too much time!” Maybe it does. So, to those of who are thinking that right now, I have a few simpler solutions that you can do on your own without taking up too much time.




                I know you’ve probably heard this before, but one of the best ways to get unstuck if you’re uninspired is just free writing. Just start writing. Anything will do. It doesn’t really matter, as long as you keep writing. Remember not to edit, don’t pause, and don’t even give yourself a moment to think. Just write and let it flow. You will, most likely, end up with a load of garbage, but it’ll help you get out of your write, and you might just find yourself getting some really good stuff out of all of that garbage. If you just need something to write about, try some of these.
                I have brought to your attention two websites (I’ll admit, technology can have its perks) that might just help you out. This first one just has a bunch of silly prompts for writing, and they may not seem like “your style”. But that’s the point. Get out there and just write about things that you never paused to consider before. This website is    http://creativewritingprompts.com/     the name says it all, am I right? On this next website, just click on whatever interests you (they will be the words in blue) and just start reading.
                You’ll understand what I mean when you visit
http://grammar.about.com/od/topicsuggestions/a/causeff07topics.htm   for your writing inspiration. It has quite a few good ideas, but I don’t suggest reading them all at once, seeing as how there are four hundred of them on there.  I sincerely hope these websites help you!
                Sometimes, just a simple thing like breaking your normal routines can inspire you. You just need to get out of your rut and see new things from a different perspective. Maybe you always take one route to work. In that case, just try a couple others! If you usually just get up, get ready for work, and leave, you might consider trying exercising in the morning or just watching the sunrise. If you fit into that crowd of a lot of stereotypical Americans and usually watch TV at the end of your day, try writing (doesn’t matter what you write) or reading (doesn’t matter what you read)! Shaking things up might just let you experience new things and feelings that you either haven’t felt before or haven’t felt in a very long time.

               
               
               
Speaking of TV, there are a few unnatural ways to gather inspiration that I would like to share with you. The first of these is movies. Haven’t you ever been watching a movie, and the main character says something really witty or just plain awesome that makes you think, “Hey, that would be a great thing to put in my story!” or “I have to jot that down in my journal!” There are many times in movies when the screenwriters to produce the most captivating dialog, while there are other times that I may become inspired by the beauty of the landscape that has been captured on film, the incredible camera work, or maybe just the way that a face is framed by the camera.
               
But what good movie doesn’t have awe inspiring music? Not the music that makes you want to lie down in a corner and put your hands over your bleeding ears (cough cough, Justin Bieber, cough cough), but that music that makes gives you goose bumps and gets your hairs standing on end (in a good way). Along the same lines as movies, it can be inspirational to play great music, from Mozart to Beethoven and from the Beatles to Toby Mac. If you play it in the background as you write, simply allow it to fill you up. You can use music that you have purchased, but you can also go to YouTube and look up something along the lines of, “One Hour Epic Music Mix” or whatever else you can think of. A good one that I’m listening to right now as I write is “2 Hour - Epic Music Collection Mix”, but there are many other good music mixes out there.
                Now, you might not find this suggestion in a lot of other places, but I often times find inspiration by looking at pictures. Granted, they aren’t usually realistic pictures, but they can inspire a scene in my novel, or just spark the beginning of a fantastic freewrite. Many times, I find these pictures on, no joke, an app on my phone for wallpapers. Most have the option where you can look through different types of pictures (animals, anime, places, nature, etc.) and find any type of picture that you’re looking for. Many of my greatest writer’s blocks have been solved by looking at these pictures. If you can’t find or don’t have these types of apps available to you, I’m sure that you could always look something up on Google images, but you’ll have to be a little more specific so that you don’t end up with something that you weren’t looking for.
                Alright, just one more thing for this topic. I feel that it’s time we discuss newspapers. I used to want to be a newspaper reporter (I’m not sure about being a newspaper editor), and whenever those dreams were quickly crushed, I became coldhearted to all newspapers. At that point and sometimes even now, I find myself thinking that the news just seems like an endless cycle of the same thing over and over again. However, for those of us who know where to look, you can find stories that actually interest you (shocking, I know) that are inspiring. Many of these stories of unexpected heroes, or people who triumphed over adversity. Or maybe they didn’t. These types of stories, or whatever types of stories inspire you, aren’t found very often (not to mention that it takes a lot of patience to find them in the first place), whenever you do find them, you will feel your soul soar to new heights. Okay, maybe it isn’t that cool, but the newspaper can help you.           
 
               
                Okay, this next one is one that I haven’t ever tried myself because I knew I wouldn’t be able to concentrate long enough to achieve the overall goal. Since I have never tried this myself, I will borrow the words of a popular website (the name of which I, again, cannot remember) to describe this process, but I will make only a few minor modifications to any errors I find.

                Many people call this the Toe Dipping Process (I’m not sure why this is, but maybe you will) and what you’re about to do is sit perfectly still and observe yourself. It is sometimes called meditation, but in this case, I like to call it idea generation. This is supposed to calm you down to give the ideas that are hiding at the back of your mind and give them some room to make themselves heard. What this site wants you do is set an intention, or a goal, if you so wish.
                For example, the author of the article I stole, I mean, borrowed words from used this method to write an article. They already knew the headline and topic, but their intention was just to clear their mind and get the content flowing. So really, it doesn’t have to be a very specific goal. I don’t even think that you even really need a goal.
                This author sits cross-legged on the coach, but assures the readers that you can do this anywhere, although they suggest making sure it’s a comfortable place and position. Take a few deep breaths to get started, and then begin focusing on the breath going in and out (would someone play the weird monk music right now?)  According to the author, you can also focus on your body. They like to vary between feeling their whole body and breath. They also state that, “When I feel my whole body, I can literally feel the energy in my body come alive.” (Not trying to throw scissors at their balloon, but isn’t energy always alive? Isn’t that what makes it energy? Never mind. Let’s move on.)
                When you first start doing this, your brain will be a radio that bringing in tons of different signals (thoughts) and you’ll find it very difficult to ignore them. Here are just a few examples…
 
                (:   This is ridiculous. Why am I doing this again?
                (:   What do I want for dinner? Hm….
                (:   Have I fed the dog yet?
                (:   Crap, I have to pay the bills this Friday.
                (:   My arm itches.
                (:   This isn’t helping me at all. Hello, ideas? Anyone there?
               
               
                When this happens, just observe the thoughts without concentrating on them. This will, for most people, become easier and easier with time. When you first begin you may feel resistance, because if you’ve never done this before, you probably have a few lingering emotions and tensions having a party inside your body. As soon as you shift your awareness on them, they disappear.
                Since this didn’t work at all for me, I had a fellow author (and very good friend) try it for ten minutes. Afterwards, my friend said that her brain felt clear and prepared to write, when before she hadn’t felt like writing at all.
                Don’t think you can remember all of that? Here is the five step process summarized.


1. Quietude. Find a place where you know you won’t be disturbed. This doesn’t work for me at all if I know that anyone can come into the room at any time, so make sure you find a place where you can relax.

2. Intention. Set your intention or goal. It could be anything. Brainstorming a topic, clearing something you’ve been stuck on, or even feeling out what steps you should take next in your life. This process is about tapping into your core.

3. Breathe. Once your intention is set, sit down in any way you like, and close your eyes. On a chair, cross-legged or lotus, it doesn’t matter, as long as you are comfortable. Start with a few deep breaths, and then put all of your focus on your breath.

4. Observe. When thoughts and feelings start arising, just observe and accept them as they are. You will get caught up in them from time to time. When that happens, bring your focus back to your breath and keep going.

5. Write. Once you’ve done this for a few minutes, you will feel a sense of calm and clarity. Open your eyes, keep breathing, and start writing. If nothing happens, I usually close my eyes and go back to breathing. You will know when you’ve done this enough, because you will feel a sense of calm, peace and joy.

 

                Congratulations! You are just two more suggestions away from finishing this astonishingly long lesson! Let’s quickly move on and get this all over with. One of my last suggestions to you would be to browse quotations, either in books or (and I know that most of you will choose this option) on the internet (Google can be a great help in this situation).  People repeat and pass around quotations for a reason, you know. They can be memorable, witty, or insightful; they’re everything good writing is supposed to be. Why not let them inspire them? That’s what they’re supposed to do, you know. I haven’t ever been to this, but many people have recommended a website that, if I’m remembering correctly, is called    www.quotationspage.com    . Apparently, you can browse through millions of great quotes. Just let one of them spark an exciting new freewrite. Or maybe they could start something even bigger.


                If you are enjoying this article, I apologize, but now our time comes to an end. If you are just trying to get through this without your eyes falling out due to how terrible this is, you may be celebrating. Either way, this is my last technique for finding inspiration. What I want you to do is find your joy. Maybe you’re just tired, but a lot of the times we authors beat ourselves up when our work doesn’t measure up to our standards. That’s a huge mistake, because the writers who actually make it in the publishing world are the stereotypical mad geniuses whose careers are a flash of brilliance, followed by an untimely death. Most of the authors that we know and love are just normal people who take joy from the things they write and write as much as possible.
                I now it’s easy to forget the importance of that joy and, in my opinion, that’s the biggest reason we have a tough time inspiring ourselves to write. We’re trying to trick ourselves into doing something that we hate, and we need to stop, because here’s the thing- the sooner you allow yourself to have fun with your writing, the easier you’ll find it is to just sit down and write. It will give you new energy, and you’ll find yourself actually wanting to do it. 
                My advice?
                The next you’re stuck, actually find something to write about that actually makes you smile. Not something that makes you just think about smiling or do that little puff of air through your nose when you think something is funny, but not funny enough to laugh, but that actually makes you preform the physical act of smiling. Find something to write about that gives you a buzz and sends those tingles down your spine that gives you goose bumps and sets your hair on end in the best of ways. Find something to write about that touches you so deeply, you may even find tears of joy running down your face while you type.
                That joy, my friends, is what writing is really about. It should not just be a gift to us, but to our readers. Make them feel the same thing you were feeling as you were writing whatever it may be; poem, story, or anything else your heart could desire. Enjoy your gift. It may not last forever.

Sincerely,
The undisputed leader of the world,
Imelda Blackheart



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Imelda Blackheart
Imelda Blackheart

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Beyond enjoying writing like everyone else on this site, I really don't know what else to tell you. :D