I started wondering recently if I need a vacation to get inspired. I have been so absorbed with the editorial process, editing my novels and my short stories, that I have yet to develop a new idea to write about. Do I need to pack my bags and spend a couple thousand dollars to travel to Paris and live there for two years, living in Montmartre and sipping champagne near Champs Elysees overlooking the Arc de Triomphe? Or is there a better way besides going into severe debt and saying Oui Oui every day? Here are three writing strategies to help you get out of your creative slump.
Change it up
If you are like me, you probably work on a laptop in either the living room, bedroom, or at the kitchen table and try to capture the frame of mind of your characters and their world within the four walls of your apartment or home. However, this can become difficult when you are reminded of the dishes you need to put away, or the phone is ringing off the hook, or even your spouse wants to watch TV or just chat about the day. Though you set aside time to write, it is not always the writing sanctuary that you imagine or yearn it to be. So I recommend change it up! Go get a change of scenery, such as go to the park or even your local library. One fellow writer told me that she goes to the local coffee shop in her town to not get distracted by her two young kids. Even just taking your laptop to write in the backyard could create that spark of creativity. Also, don’t underestimate a notepad and pencil. Taking a small notebook or notepad out with you in your purse or briefcase could come in handy since you never know when inspiration will hit. I came up with some great ideas for my stories on the train commuting to and from work. Also, if you don’t jot it down then and there, you might lose it.
Take a Mini-Vacation or Weekend Getaway
When researching for my 2nd book of my novel series, I told my husband that I wanted to take a short trip to Amish Country in Pennsylvania. Getting first-hand knowledge of the place you are writing about can help with the five senses. You can remember what the farm smelled like and describe the people you met and the way you felt looking out into the beatiful countryside. I was able to bring new elements to my story that I may not have been able to do without acknowledging and experiencing that simpler way of life. Of course, travelling to Amish country was pretty affordable since I live in New York City. However, this option could prove more difficult if I was looking to write about someplace like Australia which would require a plane ticket, two weeks time off from my job and an 18-20 hour flight (and winning the lottery). Needless to say, if you are able to get that first hand experience and apply it to your writing it will help make the setting more vivid for your readers, but not essential. If you can’t go personally, check online to research pictures, or even talk to others who have had that first-hand experience. Everyone loves talking about their travels, I mean who doesn’t? However, don’t allow yourself to get too wrapped up in the details. You want the basics but you don’t want the details to interfere with your creative juices flowing.
Use What You Know
I know I don’t do it enough, but I work in the greatest city in the world, New York. I interact with characters every day; at my job, in my commute or even enjoying the night life. Observe and take note of the stories that can derive from your every day life. Even if you are working from home or are a bonefide couch potato, you can still be inspired by the news stories you read or even watch on TV. I know a woman from a creative writing group who was inspired by a picture in the world news section of the newspaper and built the characters, plot and setting around that one photo. If she could do that, imagine the possibilities living in a three-dimensional world.