Back in my college days, I noticed a trend in my fellow English major. Many, many (far too many) of them spent the majority of their free time reading. It got to the point where I felt weird for not gobbling up the latest Twilight book on Friday night. I had a lot of other things going on in life! When I got over the fact that I wasn’t the typical book-worm writer, I began to see how these other things informed my writing in a very real way.
Okay book-lover-writers, hear me when I say NOTHING is wrong with reading, in fact, there is a lot right with it. But I’m pretty certain that if you want to be a writer who can create a believable character, do justice to your dialogue and keep a reader hooked, you’ve got to find inspiration from more than just someone else’s stories.
So how do you find inspiration for your writing? The answer will look different every time. However, I think these tips might help you along the way.
6 quick tips
With all of these tips, I recommend bringing along a little (or big) notebook.
1. Take a walk. There is nothing quite so slow as walking. Yes, I mean slow. We are not used to being slow, to paying attention. Talk a walk and you are having an experience with the sounds, sights and smells of the world around you. What better way to ground yourself and refresh your writing with accurate sensory descriptions?
2. People watch. I’ve done some pretty great people watching while in hospital waiting rooms, on restaurant patios or mall benches. Put yourself in a public space and then pay attention to body language, to facial expressions and to how conversations begin, escalate and end.
3. Go somewhere new. This might be hard for those recluse-writer-types out there, but it can do wonders for your words. This new place could be a different coffee shop, park or unfamiliar city (even country)! Get out of your comfort zone, and I’ll bet your descriptions of places and cultures will find a refreshing zest.
4. Listen to soundtracks. Nix the lyrical stuff, just let the raw complexity of these tunes light your imagination on fire. These sounds are meant to be paired with stories, so see what your mind weaves as you listen.
5. Start a conversation with a stranger. I realize this could be terrifying for an introvert, but it doesn’t have to be as crazy as you think. Simply go beyond pleasantries with your barista or sales clerk. Ask a question about the weather or a sports team, give someone a compliment and see where it leads. You could just be chatting with the person who inspires your next main character.
6. Read something you wouldn’t normally read. I realize that I kind of gave reading a hard time in this post, but past literature will always be a part of what informs new writing. This time though, instead of sticking to what you’re comfortable with, pick up something new. Try local newspapers, scientific studies, travel brochures, opinion pieces. Branch out and you might just be surprised at how the tid-bits of information you pick up can become part of your novel, character or poem.
I hope my 6 tips will help you find inspiration for your writing, and I hope you comment with a few of your own!