The cursor continues to blink. It doesn’t care about your writer’s block. It doesn’t care that you’re tired. It’s indifferent toward your coffee intake, your pay rate, your other chores and your screaming kids. It blinks, indelibly, reliably, impatiently. But you’ve got nothing.
As curators of content, we all know the ideas don’t always flow. We also know that deadlines are deadlines, so we must be responsible for our own inspiration (which is a tall order). Here are some ways to supercharge your thinking cap:
Take your artist on a date
In “The Artist’s Way,” Julia Cameron talks about the importance of the artist date—a weekly time (say an hour or two) set aside to nurture your inner artist. The only requirement: you must be alone. You might take a walk around the block, make a collage in your room, listen to music while you sit on the roof of your apartment building—whatever helps you to take care of yourself, do it. Your creative self needs it (and she might even give you a hand with ideas if she’s happy).
Draw (or something)
Danny Gregory, author of “The Creative License,” is a master of the illustrated journal. Compare your own stick drawings to his watercolor pencil sketches and you’ll be intimidated (along with the rest of us). But his takeaway is solid: sometimes you have to channel your creativity into other kinds of art—maybe even outlets you’re not super good at—in order to get to your creativity’s core. So design something on your computer, play with paint swatches at the hardware store, read your favorite kid’s book, knit, plan the dream house you’ll never build—whatever you do, just get out of your own way.
Let the world be your muse. Keri Smith’s, “How to Be an Explorer of the World,” encourages creatives to foster heightened senses and an eye for detail. Some of her suggestions: document parts of buildings that people often ignore; take a field trip specifically to listen to and collect sounds; take photos of textures, patterns, stains, splotches, shapes or things that look like faces. This art of attention is sure to unearth endless topics.
There is nothing new under the sun. All the great lines have been used, recomposed and then reused. Every good idea has been someone’s before. So while you shouldn’t just blatantly rip off someone’s article (because that’s rude, and also illegal), do glean from it. Does it have a memorable last line or a well-worded phrase you just can’t shake? Is it the writing, the story or the relevancy that hooked you? Put the line or the stanza, or the whole dang piece in your writer’s toolbox. It’ll serve as inspiration, and may even end up a cornerstone to a future idea.
No matter how uninspired you feel, you can do anything for 8 minutes. So, get up from the fetal position, tell your inner critic to shut up, and write your heart out. Here is an 8-minute writing prompt to spark your creativity..
- Step 1: Ask a friend for a noun.
- Step 2: Take 1 minute to write 10 words or phrases you associate with that noun. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else. Let your mind wander.
Example: FROG: Green, Pet, Croke, Anatomy Lab, Spotted, Hop, Legs, Camping, Lake, Prince.
- Step 3: Pick the one that sticks out the most to you. Don’t overthink it.
Example: “Anatomy lab”
- Step 4: Set a timer for 8 minutes and write about that word or topic (e.g., anatomy lab) without stopping until the timer goes off.
This is a prompt many an author has mumbled and scribbled and scuffled through. But it’s only 8 minutes, and it’s likely to be the seed for bigger projects. So buck up.
Ideas are everywhere (or as Walt Whitman said “there are millions of suns left.”) They’re inside the pictures of strange signs you’ve taken, in the wonky drawings you’ve chicken-scratched on the backs of receipts and lopsided dishcloths you’ve knit. They’re in the walks you’ve taken around the block and inside every book, movie, play, conversation, composition, concerto you’ve ever read, seen, smelled, participated in, listen to or felt. They’re inside you. All you have to do is write them down.