Finding Ideas and Inspiration

Earlier this week, I gave my opinion on whether or not you should focus all your attention on a single project or have several going at one time. If you haven’t read that post, click HERE to check that out. But no matter which side you land on in that debate, you still need to have ideas. You still need inspiration or you’ll be left with an empty page or canvas for who knows how long.

One of my creative writing instructors in college asked us to pull out a piece of paper at the beginning of class and write down people or events in our lives that we believed to be remarkable. Me being me, I asked how we were to define what was or was not “remarkable”. And of course, the response I received was that it was up to me. But for the sake of being less argumentative than I might have been at that time, the Oxford Living Dictionary defines remarkable as “worthy of attention”. Ask yourself which ones you talk about most - or which ones you don’t. Where do you put your attention?

After several minutes had passed, we sat with our lists in front of us and were asked to mark which of those items we listed we had written about and why we hadn’t written about the ones we didn’t mark. If we determined these items to be remarkable, why hadn’t we remarked on them? I had never imagined it could be that simple. It is a simple practice that you can expand outside of your personal life experience to ask what you believe to be remarkable in your city, your state, country, or in the world whether those subjects or individuals are contemporary, something that happened in the past, or potential futures meaning that there are infinite ideas to explore. Let that sink in for the next time you feel you have nothing to write about. The other side of that coin is the paradox of choice: there are so many choices that you don’t know what to write about. But just like the myriad of profiles on dating apps, I’m sure there are some options on a list you generate that tug at your heartstrings a little more than others. Don’t lie to yourself.

This next one may sound like a cheat but I think it’s valid all the same: get writing prompt books. My brother, Felix, bought me a couple for Christmas one year and the range of questions or prompts in a single volume is enormous. I will say that the amount of room provided to answer the prompt is limiting within the confines of the books themselves but the point is to get those juices flowing. By all means, continue onto a separate sheet of paper, into a notebook, or onto your computer. Building on a prompt does not mean that you aren’t capable of creating something unique just because you were given the same starting point. No one can tell a story exactly the way you do because no one has had the exact same life experience as you have. We’re all born but from the second we are - from that starting point - what follows is different.

Something I cannot live without when it comes to my writing is music. I have been inspired by a song to write something small from a scene to something as big as the first draft of a feature film that hit over 120 pages, not just music video treatments. I will create Spotify soundtracks for my films and television projects and I certainly encourage you all to give it a try yourselves. The best recommendations I can make when it comes to using music as inspiration is to keep it your sources varied and to ask yourself how a given piece makes you feel. Focusing on that emotion is what will be at the center of your creative work. Without emotion behind an artistic creation, it can be difficult for that same creation to resonate with an audience. In other words, “People love what other people are passionate about.” I’ll be discussing a concrete example of a single song became the basis for a screenplay in a future post.

My final tip is something I made mention of in my last post as well and that is to take advantage of the notes app on your phone or tablet, Google docs, or to carry around a small notebook and pen to write down inspiration as it comes to you. You could even use your camera if it’s a visual stimulus! It could be a conversation you overheard while you were at a restaurant, something you saw while you were walking around, an article in the paper or online - anything. The point is to be prepared when inspiration strikes!

What practices do you use to find inspiration for your work? Have you tried any of the ones I listed? Let me know in the comments below!