Out of the many reasons to be a writer, there is still one that has not made the list:
“Being a writer is incredibly easy.”
It is never easy–particularly if you’re doing it right. Although, when asked how he came up with such creative ideas, Neil Gaiman may have put us to shame when he replied: “I make them up. Inside of my head.” But, inspiration can be the most challenging part. Maybe it’s just all the technology in the air, numbing us to real, human experiences, or we’re too critical of ourselves, too depressed, or maybe we just are some boring f***ing people.
I will not indulge you with a writing prompt (unless… you want one) because the problem lies with you. So, here are three surprising sources of inspiration for your writing so the creative cup may over-poureth.
1. Take an Online Course or Audit a Class
I used to think online education platforms like Rosetta Stone were dull and lame. But this was when I was 16 years old with no actual life experience. Now that I juggle clients, jobs, a residual social life, and some kind of scrappy sense of a “dream,” they are a god sent. I’ve taken a writing class to brush up on style guides on Coursera and watched a litany of Ted Talks that changed my life (about a hundred and one times over). These are great in a crunch. If you have time, try to audit a class at your local university.
The reason? They say that having an open attitude and an intellectual disposition is one of the key personality traits of creatives (Kaufman). If you’re experiencing a creative block in writing, try studying something other than writing — forensic psychology, history, a language — you know, like a topic that isn’t aware of itself. You will be surprised by the connections and flood of new material.
Besides, education cracks your brain open like an egg, whether you like it or not. The result? Sweet creative yolk.
2. Take a Long Walk and Keep a Log
Ever since I read The Philosophy of Walking, I’ve gotten very “meta” about my walks. It kind of made me realize none of my “great inspirations” came while I was sitting, staring, and trying to force their inception. Granted, there is the necessary “crunch” time–when you’re researching, drafting, etc.–but the nice, steady pace of a long walk seems to yield forth the labor’s benefits.
When we intentionally go “on a walk” for its own sake and not just to get somewhere, we shed our egos. We are maskless. We can stow away our mind’s habits, our shallow desires, and take a peek at what’s underneath. Usually, there is at least one gold nugget waiting for you.
Don’t let short-term memory get the better of you–take note of it before it goes down the gutter, ideally minutes after your stroll is complete.
3. Less is More? Not Really — More is More
A writer I met at a literary event passed along an invaluable rite of passage for a writer:
“I didn’t really learn to write until I gave myself permission to write badly.”
Part of this is writing in sheer volume. Imagine all of your mysterious, wonderful ideas are locked inside of a junkyard in your brain. Your inner critic, the voice that nags ans edits you, stands guard. You like to sit there, reason with the inner critic, tell them what “kind” of a good idea you’re looking for in the junkyard. You know, just start a conversation. What you really need to do?
Sucker punch your inner critic in the face. Open the gate to the junkyard like it’s a dam. Let all of the junk come out. Write pages and pages of useless garbage full of spelling and grammar errors, overused stereotypes and devices, egotistical indulgences, and the like. And you’ll notice that “BIG IDEA” will come out of the scraps. If you don’t believe me, remember that Maya Angelou wrote and published 165 poems. We only remember a few–the classic, “Still I Rise” and a few others.
So yes, be open to all possibilities and projects–and you may cringe at the majority of them, but it’s a small price to pay in this endless, creative life you’ve chosen.
Melanie Falconer is a freelance writer and editor living in Los Angeles, California. Her writing mainly concerns philosophy, personal experiences, cultural commentary, and her love of the visual and performing arts. If you’d like to reach out to her, you can do so here.