If you write, you know the torture that having a lack of inspiration can be. It can be hard enough just finding spare time, but finally getting a chance to sit down and write can be plain disheartening when you open Microsoft Word and spend precious minutes staring at a blank white screen.
Regardless of whether you write fiction or blog posts or poetry, you are always drawing from a well of inspiration. Some of us are very skilled at capturing that inspiration when it strikes as we’re in the shower or caught in traffic. Some of us are less skilled at recording our prompts, and you might even feel like you don’t have any ideas left. In reality, your well of prompts and ideas is self-sustaining, as long as you learn to properly capture your ideas.
In addition, we often lose our inspiration because of the lack of change. You run out of things to write about, because you haven’t changed the way you approach your writing for so long that the well runs dry. We need those changes, those catalysts, to spur us forward.
By learning to capture ideas when they strike you, and learning how you can change things up, you should never have another fruitless staring contest with your screen or your notebook.
Feed the Well
Adding to your well of inspiration is an ongoing process. If you do not commit to attempting to capture ideas and saving them for later, your writing will be less efficient, and you may have trouble getting a good story out.
Here are some great ideas for catching ideas, as they occur to you:
- Keep a journal. You’ve heard it before, but it’s one of the best ways to collect ideas. Some people prefer to make their journal specifically for writing ideas and creative thoughts and separate it from the traditional uses of a journal or diary; others combine it. Experiment with journals in different formats; you may find that Evernote or an art journal works better than traditional pen and paper.
- Keep track of writing prompts that work for you. It doesn’t matter if you use a prompt 50 times, if it keeps working for you.
- Map out the ideas in your head. Mind maps, or other forms of spacially-related note taking, are great for piecing together factual information, like for blog posts or a memoir.
- Love your words. Whenever I come across a word I love, I always jot it down in a certain section of my notebook. While this doesn’t always result in much, there’s never anything bad about keeping a collection of impressive words!
I like to continually change things up to be sure I’m always trying out new styles and keeping things interesting. Unlike prompts, which are ideas for things to write, catalysts are actions you can take to start creating, with or without a prompt.
- A change of scenery. If writing in your normal spot just isn’t cutting it, take your writing somewhere else, like a bustling café in the early afternoon, your neighborhood library, or beside the pool. One of my favorite places to write is while sitting in a lawn chair just inside the open garage door while rain is pouring outside.
- A change of method. If you normally type, write on paper, or vice versa. Try collaging into your journal or using a different kind of spacing on the screen.
- A change of pace. Write slowly and methodically, picturing everything in your mind and describing it. Or write at a frenzied pace, go go go!
- A change of subject. Write about something you’ve never written before. Write about something boring. Write about something you don’t understand.
- A change of attitude. Write as though it’s the last day of your life. Write as though you have an audience. Write to the stranger at the next table.
Remember that what you write when you are writing from prompts or catalysts isn’t always going to be useable, but it’s never a waste. With refinement, many exercises can become polished pieces. Anything that helps you get into the writing mindset is not a waste.
What are your favorite writing prompts or catalysts?
Adrienne Erin is a studio art major turned career development professional turned freelance writer. She enjoys writing about everything from happiness to drug rehab programs. When she’s not writing, you might find her speaking French, cooking overly elaborate meals in her tiny kitchen, or collaging. No matter where life takes her, she always enjoys the ride.