5 ways to jumpstart inspiration

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A lot of people ask me where I get my ideas from for writing. For many years when I was younger, I had trouble with inspiration. Ideas were like birds I could see only in the distance, in a sky I could never reach. Bits of them floated to the ground once in a while—useless, discarded feathers. It wasn’t until I spent more time writing, every day, that the ideas started flocking into my head. I developed some habits that called them to me, like scattering mental birdseed around to draw them in. Here are some of them:

1. Exercise/meditation/hiking: spend some time alone in your head. If you’re like me, sitting around doing nothing may drive you crazy, so I have found that if I do something physical while I’m wandering the pathways of my mind, ideas float into my consciousness with almost no effort.

2. Listen to music: let your favorite melodies calm your brain so that you can relax enough to stop doubting yourself. Doubt kills creativity.

3. Stop and look around: give yourself thirty seconds on the way to your car, or the grocery store, or even just walking down the hallway, to stop and observe one thing with great attention. I tend to watch birds, look for stars, examine snowflakes or flowers in a way that helps my mind create mental pictures. When writing, a good sense of imaginary places is essential. Looking at things develops the ability to envision spaces in your head.

4. Be nice to yourself: stop stopping. Just start writing something, even if you think it sucks. It probably does, but you can always fix it later. Writing is like running: you need to warm up sometimes. And telling yourself that it sucks just reinforces your ability to doubt yourself. Stop that.

5. Skip the depressing things: don’t read the horrible news story, avoid the annoying friend on Facebook, stop watching war movies right before you go to sleep. Sometimes the bad stuff lingers in your psyche and you’re not even aware of it. This is probably my greatest difficulty, but I have been trying to get better at allowing myself to not feel the bad stuff. Don’t let others steal your joy and replace it with misery.