This article was last updated on September 5, 2017
Every writer experiences writer’s block at some stage. For some of us, it’s a regular occurrence, while others, mercifully, only stumble into it once in a blue moon. Alas, they’re the lucky few. Sure, situating your office by a window that looks out onto rolling hills, or constantly reading the work of your favorite authors are both techniques we’ve long assumed are the best ways to gain inspiration. But few of us are blessed with views of that nature or the time required to read relentlessly. Thankfully, there are far easier ways to find inspiration for writing, and every single one of them could be considered ‘unconventional’. Here’s my favorite tips for being creative that you almost definitely will not have thought of.
No, really – give up. Do something else. The more I write, the less fun it becomes. And I love writing. You’ve probably experienced the same dichotomy; how can something one loves dearly become so irritating, constantly? It’s because you love writing that you often fail to find any inspiration. You’re too close to it, which is why quitting regularly is a brilliant idea.
Here’s a few things I tend to do in the absence of words:
- Dog walking
- Gym workouts
- Television watching
- Podcast listening
- Mindless social media viewing
Basically, I get on with life’s regular tasks, and you know what? I always return refreshed and full of ideas.
Revisit old content
I bet it’s never crossed you mind that you could be your best source of inspiration. Let’s assume you’re a blogger, like me. If you’ve visited every list of ideas you have and scoured your usual sources of inspiration but haven’t found anything that floats your boat, take a look at the stuff you’ve already written. In SEO circles, identifying under performing content and re-optimizing it is considered a great way to energize a website. As a writer, it’ll have the same effect on your inspiration levels; you’ll realize that, once, you had a fantastic idea – you just didn’t explore it deeply enough.
Have a shower
What is it about taking a shower that sparks so much inspiration? Perhaps it’s the absence of distractions or the calming nature of warm, running water – whatever it is, it tends to work for me, and it might for you, too.
Set yourself a deadline
If you write for a living, you’re probably used to deadlines, but if you do so for pleasure, or happen to be working on a project with no defined end date, you’re missing out on something. Working towards a deadline tends to focus one’s mind. If someone’s waiting on you to complete a writing project, you’ll have no choice but to be creative. Forced creativity isn’t necessarily a good thing, but if you know you’ll be letting people (or yourself) down by not delivering on time, you’ll naturally seek out unconventional ways to inspire yourself.
Give yourself a writing prompt
A lack of inspiration for writing usually means that you can’t even start an article, let alone finish it. This is why writing prompts are so useful. They’re unconventional these days because bloggers have almost perfected the process of simply launching into pieces without too much thought. However, if ‘free writing’ isn’t working for you, by devising a single sentence that asks you a question, you’ll immediately create an angle on the topic that will kick off the writing process. Common examples of writing prompts are as follows:
- “The best way to do <thing you’re writing about> is…”
- “If I had all the money in the world, I would…”
- “The first time I used <product>, I…”
- “It was twelve months ago when I discovered…”
- “From our customers’ perspective, our product benefits them by…”
Try it – a writing prompt should get your creative juices flowing immediately.
Move your office
No – not all of it. Just yourself and your laptop. Pick up the latter (it’s portable for a reason) and head somewhere else when inspiration is hard to come by. Unconventional working spaces are great venues in which to find inspiration for writing. Imagine upping sticks and working in one of the following places:
- the garage waiting room while your car is being service;
- a tiny independent coffee shop you’ve never visited before;
- a friend’s house (complete with dog), for which you look after while they’re at work;
- the gym ‘stretching area’ (I’m sure there’s a technical term);
- on a blanket, in the middle of a park during a summer’s day.
I find myself in some truly bizarre working locations, because I rarely stay in the same place. It’s also because my bog standard office at home quickly becomes stale and seems to take most of my inspiration with it. What is your environment doing to your creative spirit? Change it up!
Give someone else the pen
If you know someone close to you who will happily help out a friend in need, you could use their brain as an unconventional source of inspiration. To do this, you’ll need some direct input from your friend. Ask them to write a short summary of a topic about which you want to write, or something else – their lessons learned in life, for example. Remind them it needn’t be Shakespearean in quality or length, but that it should be written from the heart.
Take their work and use it as a brief. No matter how quickly it has been thrown together, providing they’ve followed your instructions, you should have something that is full of inspiration for your own work. This isn’t copying, or asking someone else to do your dirty work, either – it’s simply the process of capturing someone’s thoughts on a topic and using them to fuel your own creativity.
Skip whole paragraphs
If you’re in the midst of a tricky writing project and find yourself scrabbling around for ideas on how to finish a particular paragraph, abandon it for now and move on. I do this regularly, and it has had a curious effect on the way my mind works while writing. I’ll often be halfway through a paragraph only to realize that my mind is in fact focusing on the next one, or the chapter that will follow. When that happens, I move on – immediately. Sure, it leaves a paragraph quivering in its wake and without a conclusion, but I know I’ll return to it at some stage and with a far fresher mind.
Action steps to take
I bet you’re feeling inspired already, eh? Let’s wrap up with a quick review of the things you can do today to regain your writing mojo:
- Don’t battle against the wind; if something isn’t working, give up (temporarily) and do something else.
- Look back at what you’ve previously written; there may have been a gem of an idea which you didn’t fully explore.
- Have a shower; running water and zero distractions help – and you’ll end up nice and fresh, to boot!
- Set deadlines; even if they don’t exist.
- Try a writing prompt; a single sentence to get you going is probably all you need.
- Work somewhere unconventional; your surroundings are key to finding inspiration for writing.
- Ask for help; there will be someone you know who will be willing to offer the ultimate writer’s favor.
- Move on if you’re racing ahead; don’t feel you have to finish every paragraph – they’ll still be there when you return.
Have fun finding inspiration – it’ll take you to the most unusual of places, if you believe in yourself.