Thursday, April 11, 2013

Trapping the Muse

     No matter how much I love writing, there are always those days when I need inspiration from one muse or another. Every writer needs to find stimulation, some flash of genius, in order to be successful. When it comes down to it, inspiration should help produce inspired writing. I’m not sure about you but I often find my motivation in the most unlikely places.

     I created a down and dirty list (under 10) of some of my favorite ways to find inspirational nuggets. If I were a betting lady, I would wager that some are rather obvious while others less so. Regardless, it’s always good to re-think possibilities and perhaps find a new avenue on the journey to artistic creation.

     1. Books - Books are, hands down, my favorite place to find inspiration through characters, both real and imaginary. Memoir and nonfiction are my true loves but when I need a good dose of creative energy, I gobble up a good fiction. My new year’s resolution was to try new genres and I’m begrudgingly sticking with it, mainly to help expose myself to unique characters and story lines.

     2. Overheard dialog/People Watching - Okay, I admit it. I eavesdrop terribly. I am that person. I love hearing the conversations other people have, watching their body language change as they react to one another. Even if I can’t hear them clearly, I pretend I know what’s happening and create an imaginary conversation in my mind. Sometimes it gets pretty juicy! I don’t go out just to people watch but it happens, and I get some of my best ideas from these moments. This is when carrying a pad of paper comes in especially handy, especially if your memory is not great (like mine).

     3. Advertisements - I love a clever ad, both in print and on the television. The only reason I sit through any part of the Super Bowl is for the commercials. And those Groupon and Woot! writers are some darn funny people. If you have never actually read some of their work, take a minute and check them out. Reading advertisements is a great way to sharpen up on word choice and voice. These writers know they have to make every word count and when it works, it is magic!

     4. Blogs - I am also a huge fan of blogs and not just blogs on writing, reading, and teaching. I try to read new blogs each week and am amazed by the creativity in topics I come across. Besides the wealth of new knowledge, I also find satisfaction in seeing other like-minded people share their ideas.

     5. Friends and Co-Workers - Conversations with my friends and co-workers have inspired some of my favorite posts and stories. I think being a teacher helps with this, as does hanging out with fellow writers. You will frequently hear one of us say, “There’s a story in that” after listening to a retelling of a bad date, a difficult work day, or a dream vacation. Having friend you can discuss your craft with is a blessing. These people, the truly honest ones anyway, help you work through a block, cut useless words, and tell you when it’s time to let an idea go to the graveyard.

     6. Writing groups - Similar to a good chat with friends, having a solid critique or writing group is a must. If you don’t live near a group, start one on your own! Too busy, find one on the internet. Seriously, this has been one of the absolute best things I have done for myself as a writer. And it’s more than just the networking and critiquing, though both are important. I love my writers group because I feel at home with them. I know there are people out there who think like me, scary as that may be. Sometimes this is all the inspiration I need.

     7. Music - I find music motivating for a number of reasons. I love the rhythm and cadence of music and find it relaxing. I just seem to work better, whether it is writing, exercising, etc., with music playing. I also find great inspiration in the lyrics of many of my favorite songs. I will hear a song and often think, “That would make a great story!” I have a couple friends who are amazing songwriters and in turn, great storytellers.

     8. Children - My husband and I have four kids, and they are my favorite people in the world (my husband, parents, and in-laws being right up there on that list too). I love to spend time with them, talking, and hearing their ideas and thoughts on life. As with any family, our adventures sometimes turn into misadventures and these times are fuel for a funny story. A couple of the stories I enjoyed writing most have been about our family experiences- the good, the bad, and the ugly.

     9. Contests - Enter a contest you never thought you try. Last month I tried a Writer’s Digest weekly prompt about an Open House that goes terribly wrong. Not my usual kind of story but it was a fun experience. More than that, it pushed me to try something new and out of my comfort zone. There was no entry fee and no pressure. I have no idea if I did well and honestly, I am not all that concerned. It just felt good pushing out of my ordinary writing realm. This month – poetry! Wish me luck!

     Good luck with your inspiration. If my list didn’t help, let me know what works for you. Some days, we all need a little boost! – Karen

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