Image: Matthew Loffhagen
When inspiration does not come, I go for a walk, go to the movie, talk to a friend, let go… The muse is bound to return again, especially if I turn my back!
— Judy Collins
The muse — mysterious, incomprehensible, infinitely unpredictable. Only one thing is certain about your relationship with the muse: you can’t rely on her. One day, you’re so inspired you can’t stop writing for fear you won’t keep up. The next, you wake to find every good idea you had yesterday has disappeared into thin air and every attempt to conjure that inspiration falls flat. So, dear writer, I want to give you a list of mostly non-writing-related ways to turn your back, as Judy Collins so wisely prescribes, when you find yourself waiting for the muse to return.
Listen to a podcast
There is a podcast on nearly every topic under the sun. Have you always wanted to learn about something new but haven’t had the time to pursue it? Now is your chance! Go find some fun and interesting podcasts to listen to while you do the dishes or fold the laundry or make your daily commute. You’re bound to learn something new and interesting. And who knows where that might lead you?
People-watch… and listen
People, especially perfect strangers, are a treasure trove of information and inspiration. Go sit at the mall, a coffee shop or a sporting event, and watch the people around you. What are they wearing? What are they doing? What are they saying? In no time you’ll discover all kinds of interesting things to feed your writer’s brain.People-watching is great research for writers. One interaction could inspire a bestseller.Click To Tweet
Go to an art show, concert or play
Books aren’t the only source of stories. Seek out and enjoy other sources of narrative like an art show, a concert or a theater performance. This is not only entertaining, it’s also a different way of allowing your brain to experience a story. Your subconscious will undoubtedly file it away and start using this input behind the scenes in your own work.Great writers read, but they also seek out stories in books, music, theatre... Click To Tweet
Curate your own visual gallery
When you run out of writing ideas, try surrounding yourself with rich images to inspire your imagination. Pinterest, Tumblr and Flickr are just three of many platforms you can use to create your own digital gallery. You can browse other user galleries or curate your own. With thousands of images on every subject imaginable available at your fingertips, you’re bound to find something to inspire your creativity.
Make a playlist
Music or ambient sound can be a great source of inspiration. Check out Soundcloud, Noisli or Rainy Mood, make a playlist of new music, or search the web for other music and audio resources. Music is deeply emotive, powerful, and creative. So, turn off your brain for a while and tune in. See what you get in return.
Take a trip
Traveling can be so invigorating. Go someplace you’ve always wanted to visit. Have a new experience. Get a firsthand look at somewhere in the world you’ve never been. Try new foods, take part in another culture’s festivities, and meet new people who live differently from you. Or, if that all sounds like too much for you, just go to a beautiful part of the world and relax. The point is to get away for a while, get reinvigorated, let your mind rest and recharge. You’ll be amazed at the new outlook you have on life and work when you come back.
Keep a journal
There are many styles of journaling you can try. Record daily diary entries. Keep a dream journal. Try stream-of-consciousness writing. Jot down observations from your people-watching excursions. Write about your travels. Whatever you choose, write for pleasure, write for yourself, and don’t be critical of your craft. If you can, just write for fun.Keeping a journal gives you a constant source of material and promotes writerly behavior.Click To Tweet
Do some light reading
Pick up a stack of magazines you don’t normally read. Page through news articles on a topic not usually on your radar. Search for blogs on a subject unfamiliar to you. See what worlds open up to you and spark your interest.
Look to history
History is so much more than a list of dates and names. It can be one of the greatest sources of inspiration. In the words of Mark Twain, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” So check out a documentary, read a biography, visit an exhibit, attend a lecture. Choose a historical figure, time period, or event that sparks your interest and learn more about it. Your mind will soon be swimming with new ideas and questions.Real-world facts can inspire great fiction. Hunt them down and file them away. Click To Tweet
When was the last time you took a nap, got a massage, laid by the pool or on the beach, played a round of golf… without watching the clock or setting a timer? There are a thousand things to keep us from pampering ourselves in our day-to-day lives. Our calendars are bursting with to-do lists and responsibilities. But can you set aside some time for some serious self-care? Can your spouse or partner help you make that happen?
Capture the muse
It’s inevitable that you’re going to go through dry spells in your writing life. The muse will desert you periodically, but she won’t stay gone forever. What you do in the meantime is up to you. I hope you won’t despair; don’t let fear or anxiety get you down. Keep up your writing practice, trust in your creative process and take some time for yourself to try something new or rekindle an old interest you’ve put aside. Use this list as a starting point to recharge your waning inspiration. When it’s time to get back to work you’ll have a fresh well of ideas to draw from, and you’ll find your passion and energy reinvigorated.
When all else fails, follow Judy’s prescription: Go for a walk, go to a movie, call up a friend. Turn your back. One day soon, you’ll wake to find the muse sitting beside your bed, waiting for you to get to work.
What tricks help you most when you feel uninspired? Tell us about a time when you found inspiration in an unlikely place. Or, for more ways to find your muse, try Eleven Places You Can Find Inspiration For Your Writing, Five Experimental Novels That Will Inspire Any Writer and Want To Improve Your Writing? Here Are The Six People You Need To Find.