We've all been there. Whether you're trying to think of the most elaborate and life-changing idea for an opportunity that just presented itself, or write because it's what you love to do, we always have a bit of a tough time figuring out exactly where to start. Today, I've listed a few little things I've always done to help get the ol' noodle where it needs to be for maximum storytelling. Take a peek below and try a few of these things for yourself if you haven't already!
Music | Listen to Spotify on Weekly Discovery
This should be every writer's go-to. It's also a fantastic challenge if you allow yourself to truly explore your head and imagination. If you listen to music you don't know, in genres other than pop (I usually recommend Classical, Instrumentals, scores, or Indie genres) and allow yourself to sit in a nice dark room with a candle lit, or take yourself on a walk, and close your eyes, magical things can truly happen. Letting yourself take in the music emotionally, imagine what you're feeling or where that music is taking you, you can picture yourself as a character discovering a new world. This practice also helps you to dig deeper within your imagination, and gives you the extreme power to develop and hone your emotions in a different space compared to what's happening in your reality. This is especially cool because it creates a world of your own - not a world that you see every day.
Also - if you have a specific genre in mind, it helps to listen to music with that sort of vibe. If you're trying to write a fantasy, listening to the scores from Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter may help. If you're trying to write a noir, listening to Lana Del Rey or maybe a little bit of Frank Sinatra may help as well.
Pictures! | Open Pinterest
Like I said above, if you're feeling or seeing a certain character, setting, car, window, forest, or really wherever your imagination and heart are telling you, looking up pictures with that sort of subject line always get the imagination jogging a bit. That, or if you're interested in something and want to incorporate it into a story, looking up pictures of that certain subject will help you create characters, a place where they go, different people, they interact with, etc.
For example, I love fashion photography and the different makeup styles, dresses, settings where people shoot, and the moods they create. If I wanted to incorporate something regarding the magic of fashion photography into my story - or I appreciated the story that a photo already tells, I would look up "fashion photography" on Pinterest and allow what I saw to help create a story in my head that I could build off of.
Read Letters Between Strangers
I know this sounds a bit weird, and it definitely can be, but I was researching a few different aspects of my town history at our local library in Rio, Wisconsin, among many other libraries for different research, and along the way, I came across letters between two brothers, a man, and his wife during the war, a thank you note from a local woman to the town mayor, and a postcard between sisters. These letters took me to multiple periods throughout time, telling me stories of strangers I'd never met, but could feel their emotions in their words. These letters painted four different stories in my mind and created a movie within my imagination that consisted of exactly the moment I sat there reading them.
On top of this, if you go into a used book store or local library, there may be dedications from loved ones or friends for a specific book. When you read the words they wrote, along with the story they attached them to for their loved one, you create a story in your mind about their relationship and boy, it sure can turn into something beautiful.
Look into Local History
Going off of what I said above if you visit your local library from a town you've grown up in and have been a part of your whole life, reading it's local history can develop new thoughts in your head. You can find old pictures, newspaper clippings, discover buildings, and come across stories that you're able to imagine in the exact place they happened - places you know about! Whether its that one of the first schools in the region of where you live stood exactly where your family's barn does now, that your town was the first to have gravel in the entire county, or the first mayor of your town was best friend's with Thomas Edison!
With looking into the history of the place you grew up, you already have an emotional connection and a spacial awareness that you can draw from. Why not use it?
Walk Around Places You've Never Been
Whether it's a new neighborhood with new houses, a different part of town with a variety of buildings, walking down a busy street with bustling and interesting restaurants, or a village completely on the other side of the world full of people who are so different and so beautiful. Pay attention to which places and which people jump out at you. Maybe there is a menu of a restaurant that serves "Unicorn Blood," or a dance club called, "Watch Me Whip." Think of how they make you feel. Is there a story that comes to your mind when you take them in with all of your senses? If so, while you're walking around, make sure to take a moment to let blood flowing throughout your body really do its job, and stand there to take everything in.
If you're in a new area and are walking, you observe your surroundings more. Give it a shot for your writing!
And I mean EVERYTHING! Whether you're walking, sitting, in class, at work, at a restaurant or bar with your friends, in a museum, or anywhere - watch, listen, smell, feel, taste EVERYTHING you can. Let what you take in with your senses soak into an emotional state. If you see a painting that especially resonates with you, take in the people around you at that time, maybe what you're drinking, or what you're listening to, and create a story out of it. All that you experience should be mopped up into your memory and your imagination like a sponge, and utilized if it resonates with you.
Just let your mind be open and clear wherever you go and it will reward you greatly.
As you observe everything, take into account the different people you come across. While you're sitting on the train, in the park, walking through the airport, hanging out by the window at your favorite coffee shop, or just as you live through daily life - pay attention to different people. How they walk, how they talk, what color their hair is, their mannerisms, if they're shy, hiding from someone, looking for someone, what key chains are attached to their backpack, and the clothes they wear - among many other details us humans have. I've brought this point up before, but if someone grabs your attention, grab back every detail you can muster regarding their personality without seeming like a creep. This will create some wicked characters.
Look Up Random Names and Jobs
Look up baby names from all over the world, last names and look into their meaning, as well as google "Random Jobs No One Knows About." Chances are, you'll find something completely crazy and/or unique that helps a story pop into your head, or possibly an insane backstory for your characters - which create stories of their own, really! Doing this creates a realm for your characters to work off of and build upon. I bet whatever you imagine is exactly what the world needs to read.
Sit in Nature and Be With Your Thoughts
I couldn't stress this enough. When you're within a place that has been untouched and beautifully created by God's hand (or whatever you choose to believe), you are able to absorb a sort of peace that takes your mind to different places. You are all of a sudden not having to think about the stresses of work, potentially running into someone, or protecting yourself from your surroundings. Here, you are safe. Here you are able to expand your mind without limits. Breathe and just take in all you see - what do you feel and how can you create from those things?
Have your phone on silent or don't have it at all when you're in nature.
The best way to truly ignite your imagination and keep it constantly flowing is to read every day. No matter what - no excuses. By reading, you're able to live a thousand lives in one and imagine things that stand the test of time, throughout time. You are truly able to immerse yourself in multiple different stories and allow yourself to see them through your own imagination. That's really the cool thing. No one can imagine a place, a character, how someone talks, a creature, or anything really after reading it as you can. That's the magic of reading. The experience is completely your own, while you share the story with so many others. Based off of what you imagine, it allows the worlds you've seen to intertwine into a world all your own. Write about that world.
Actually Listen to Strangers
Maybe you're on a trip by yourself or sit by someone on the subway who you start talking to. Whether they seem a little nutty or completely normal, ask them honest and genuine questions like, "Where are you headed," "Are you having a good day today?" or "What brings you here?" If and when they answer you, make sure you listen!! Sometimes the stories they tell and based off of how you imagine what they're explaining to you, create the absolute best fictional stories (make them fictional or else legality may be a thing later on).
Regardless though, truly LISTEN to them. They will appreciate it as it never happens anymore, whether you get a story or not.
Really Think of The MessAge you Want to Relay
Overall, so many people like to write about and are talented at writing different things. Sometimes imagination isn't where you need to focus at all. Think about you and your heart. What lessons have you learned? What experiences have you been through? What do you want to teach the world, and/or what is it that only you can tell them, that you think they need to know? First and foremost, be true to yourself, write the story that comes from your heart, not from what you think other people want to read. That way, none of your work will truly resonate. If you think of the message you want to relay and tie it in with your life story - there is your book or movie right there. It tells itself. Of course, with a message and/or theme, you can create a story from whatever you imagine, but make sure it feels right to you.
Just Start Writing, Don't Stop, and HAve Fun!
This is the BIGGEST tip and practice I can stress. If you just start writing from some random perspective, write down how you're feeling that day, explain the dream you had last night, create a character out of thin air who would probably be your best friend if they were real, or just start from a certain person being in a certain place, doing something. Whatever you start, don't stop! Just have fun with it and keep going. Write. Write. Write!!! This is usually where the best stuff comes from.
Don't think too hard or analyze yourself too much. Just keep going and finish the story you've started. This is always the most difficult part, but doesn't have to be - as writing should be fun all of the time! Heck, you're creating people! You're creating worlds! You have sensational ideas. You better share them, or no one will ever know what goes on in that magical head of yours.
The coolest part about writing and sharing your work though, are the people who read it and how they imagine and interpret it for themselves. There are people out there who need to experience your ideas, your words, and what you've created. Your stories could save lives. Give so many a sense of belonging, comfort, or friendship. Don't deny those sweet and incredible individuals of that freedom. Give it to them with open arms. All you have to do is pick up a pencil or start typing, and never stop.