Tickling inspiration out of a creative slump

Inspired creators create. Creators lacking inspiration slump and whine.

Most creative souls will be familiar with a drought of ideas and energy, that pitiful scratch and juggle of stale thoughts and ideas as we claw after inspiration. We can sit and stare at our screens, pages, pens, canvases, clay, pianos or whatever other medium we are trying to wring a project out of and whine, or… we can grab inspiration by the horns and take a wild, unexpected ride. Who knows where we might end up?

One of my favourite tools for kick-starting inspiration from a drought of creative energy is flipping through an art book. I write darker stories and ideas so the art books I favour are fantasy or gothic scenes, although I have made a point of buying a few different books.

I avoid wasting the full hour mindlessly flicking through pages by telling myself I have to write a short exercise on one of the following three pieces. I then open at a random page.

The scenes in these books are a moment in time, but they are usually infused with such drama and backstory. Sometimes it’s the scene itself that inspires me to write. Why are those things or characters there? What happened to lead up to this? Where is this leading? The art books I choose have work that is dripping with emotion and drama which can usually be interpreted in so many different ways.

Sometimes it’s the emotion itself that inspires me. The emotion evoked in me as I enjoy the piece or the emotion I read in that character. That imagined backstory pulls me into a writing piece. If the piece itself is not speaking to me, I check out the background. Often there is something on the horizon of the piece. What is that out there? Where does that come from? What would it be like to be out there, in that scene?

Much of what I generate are writing exercises only, but on occasions the pieces I write trigger off a longer story. One painting was of a steam-punk girl cramped in a complex metal machine. The story I wrote wasn’t steam-punk and the machine she was in wasn’t metal but the emotion in her eyes, the tight space and the fine gown she was wearing inspired a story that has a lot of potential.

At work one day, cruising websites, I stumbled across the image of a woman. She was sassy and fierce and had so much confidence in her eyes. I captured the image. The character I wrote didn’t have the same physical descriptions, but her energy and strength were inspired by that image. As I write that story, every time I think “what next?” I pull up that image. It reminds me of her energy and personality.

It's vital we are creative about kick-starting our creativity. Why wallow and roll about in a lack of inspiration and creative energy? We need a stack of games and exercises and tools and resources to shake off inertia and create a warm, cosy nest for inspiration to return and roost.

We don’t need to be passive, helpless victims waiting for the muse to grace us with its presence. When our creative energy ebbs, let’s get our juices flowing with resources close to hand. Maybe it's time to check out the art section of your local library? Do you have a second-hand book shop that might be able to help? What if you forced yourself to write a short piece inspired by one out of every three pieces of work in your local gallery?

What tools do you use to spark off inspiration?

First published on my website https://nicolewalshauthor.com/ on 23 July 2020

Nicole writes short stories and novel length speculative fiction and a weekly blog https://nicolewalshauthor.com/ or www.facebook.com/nicolewalshauthor