How to Find Inspiration When It’s Lost

blue-sparkles-sharon-johnstoneNovel writing is really only a measly 10% inspiration, and a whopping 90% perspiration, yet without that 10%, the book is flat and will most likely be tossed into the flames of slush pile hell. So yeah, there’s pressure–lots of it–to be creative, to keep the flow of the amazing wonderfulness of ideas going. Problem is, we’re often overworked and exhausted. Between our “real jobs”, homes and children and pets, and general life expectations, our creative energy can run dry. So how do we deal with the empty page, that lackluster narrative, or the scene that just won’t work? And where the hell has the inspiration gone?

In times like these, we must get…well, creative.

REFILL THE WELL:  You’re rambling around the bottom of your creative well, lapping up the last few drops. It needs refilling, but how you do this is different for everyone. For me it means going on with daily life, but spending time being creative in another realm–cooking, gardening, redecorating a room, doing some crafty kid project with my kids…I also love an adventure, even if it’s just getting out of town for awhile. Which brings me to my next point.

UNLIKELY ADVENTURES: When feeling stuck, this is the perfect time to go on a little trip to your local ghetto, or hoity-toity neighborhood, or hog farm. Try para-sailing or rock climbing, or Korean food. Check out a strip club or country music bar. You get the point. Do something out of character and new. Get out of your own head for awhile and just experience life, take it all in. These adventures spark inspiration, and may get you on the path for a new plot thread altogether.

MEDIA, MEDIA, MEDIA: Gorge on films, TV, and books related to your project and, more importantly, not related. Study the characterization and plot, feel the pull toward the inevitable climax. Lose yourself in these other worlds. You never can tell when an element will strike you and open up a whole new view of your work in progress.

ABANDON SHIP: Walk away from the manuscript. Chances are you’re either A.) fried and need a break, or B.) stuck on a thread that lacks true conflict and purpose. For historical writers, it can also mean you need to research more to move forward. So let it lie for awhile, as they say in the business, and then get back on the horse.

USE A LIFELINE: Call a friend who adores reading and would be happy to hash out your ideas with you. A close friend of mine, as well as my husband, love to do this with me and neither of them are writers. Also, call up some writer friends or meet for lunch. Chat about what’s getting you stuck. Two heads are better than one. Even if they validate what you’ve already been thinking, it may be just the push you need to get you excited about your project again.

What tricks do you do to find inspiration?


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Heather Webb

Writer, Editor
Heather Webb is the author of BECOMING JOSEPHINE, her debut historical (Plume/Penguin 2014). A freelance editor and blogger, she spends oodles of time helping writers hone their skills—something she adores. You may find her Twittering @msheatherwebb, hosting contests, or hanging around as a contributor to the Editor's Posts. She is also the Twitter mistress for the popular Writer Unboxed. She loves making new reader and writer friends. Stop on by her website, Between the Sheets!

This article has 4 Comments

  1. I have a group of writer friends, and we get together for what we call “drink and thinks” — we brainstorm our storytelling challenges of the moment. With wine, of course. 🙂

  2. I just love going out of town in the middle of writing a book. Wherever I am usually ends up being the setting for a side adventure for the characters and fills me with great ideas. I love the idea of calling a friend! I’m always hesitant to do this, but I’ve found recently that non-writer friends in particular love talking about novel ideas! Thanks for the tips!

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