Writer's Workbook: 4 Ways to Find Inspiration and Beat Writer's Block Right Now

February 2, 2016

 

Pacific Grove, California.

 

"You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page.
You can't edit a blank page."

—Jodi Picoult


There are many opinions on this, but here is mine: writer's block is both a myth and a luxury. If you are a writer or wish to become one, convince yourself that it 1) doesn't exist or 2) exists only as an excuse for people who don't want to write today, i.e. not you.

Instead of thinking about writer's block at all, let's think about finding your inspiration. I've written about inspiration before, both here and here. But when looking down the barrel of a long writing day, feeling like I don't have much to say, here's what I do to get started.

4 Ways to Find Inspiration Right Now


1. Just start writing.
Get over yourself and just get some words on the page. The program Write or Die is particularly good for this. The first few hundred words you write are probably going to be utter crap. Don't be disheartened. Writing is a way of thinking, and the more you write, the more connected you'll become to your deeper thoughts. An analogy...let's say your goal is to take a nice warm bubble bath. First, you must turn on the tap. You probably have to wait until the water turns hot. If you become impatient, give up, and turn off the tap while the water's cold, you'll never be able to take your bubble bath. So just start writing until the writing turns hot. Don't turn off the tap.

2. Listen to music.
My husband and I were waiting for our lunch at a taco joint yesterday when an old ballad came on the restaurant's radio. It sounded like Dean Martin, but the lyrics were in Spanish. To kill time, I asked my husband (he's also a writer) what kind of picture he imagined when he listened to the song. His answer? A beachside bar in Acapulco in the fifties, men in linen suits, women with flowers in their hair. We came up with a whole storyline, all from one song. Music can get your creative mind working. Play music you like or something completely random. Think about a whole story, like we did. Think about how your characters might react to that music. Or think about where in your story that song might be playing. Just riff and see where the music takes you.

3. Use real life.
This past weekend, I went to watch the PBR Built Ford Tough Series at Honda Center in Anaheim. The winner of the event was a tall red-headed Canadian bull rider named Tanner Byrne. While he was receiving his award, he mentioned that his cousin was a defenseman for the Anaheim Ducks, Josh Manson. In addition to that, Tanner Byrne's brother just-so-happens to be my favorite professional bullfighter in PBR, Jesse Bryne (who just so happens to be partial inspiration for Dean MacKinnon in my--ahem, cough, cough--upcoming book Cowboy Resurrection, available for pre-order now).  So let's just lay this out: a professional bull rider, a professional bullfighter, and a professional hockey player all from one remarkable family? Listen. I write romance. Those guys are a walking romance series. Push your own stories to reflect the cool stuff that happens in real life. Let it spark your inspiration and write, write, write.

4. Steal overheard dialogue.
Unenlightened people might call this eavesdropping, but I call it working. In line at the supermarket, waiting at the doctor's office, at your kid's soccer match, listen to the people around you. Always listen. Folks have funny and interesting things to say. If what they say isn't particularly remarkable, listen to the way they say it. What's the subtext? What are they not including? I absolutely love catching funny dialogue out in the wild. At the gym the other week, a trainer said to one of the patrons, "I'm going to show you how to do lunges." And the dude looked at her and said, "For a minute there, I thought you said 'lunches.' I already know how to do those. Really well. That's why I'm here." Think about funny stuff you've overheard recently and weave it into your story.





For more information on writers and daily rituals, please see this post. For an excerpt of Cowboy Resurrection, please click here. To subscribe to my newsletter for exclusive giveaways and information about my new releases, please click here.