O For A Muse of Fire

What do you use to get your creativity flowing again?

GIMP, apparently.  But no, really, what do I use to get my creative juices flowing again when I have neglectfully let them stagnate?  In a perfect world I would not be allowed to let them coagulate, but here we are and there it is, you know, and so the question stands.
500 plunk
Thanks to Kendra, I now have a title for this exercise - this exercise which I did not myself invent.  If you don't need anything more than a kick in the pants, this is a great way to make yourself buckle down and work a little harder, darling.   In short, sit down and make yourself write 500 words before you are allowed to get back up.  There are no other rules.  The words don't have to be the best.  You should certainly try to do your best, but don't sweat the small stuff, as Applejack says.  This is a case of pushing yourself more than it is of pushing your characters.  Just move the plot along 500 more words and find where that puts you.  I usually find it has got me into the swing of things and I'm willing to push beyond 500 after that.

the shadow things
read well and rightly
You will always hear me say you must read, because it will always be true.  But in this case, make sure you are reading the right books.  I have finally reached a place in Gingerune at which I can go read about the Norman invasion of England if I like (which I do want to read that book at some point) and not have it unduly affect my writing, but I don't think it would be wise for me to make a reread of, say, Jane Austen because her dialogue would probably undermine my own.  I could probably get away with a reread of Knight's Fee, though.  Keep in mind where you are in the writing process:

do you need research material?
do you need prose inspiration?
do you need help defining your characters?

While you never want to steal from other people, half the art of writing is learning how to take other people's work, break it down into its essential components, and refashion it to help create the story you have in your own head. (WRITING IS ALCHEMY.)  You cannot create ex nihilo: there is no shame in admitting this fact of nature and getting help.

poetry and music
I know this is kind of an odd thing to throw out there, but poetry and music (which is poetry set to harmonious noise) are very important to people and have been throughout human history.  They are important for you, they are important for your characters.  Writing a fairy-tale?  Dig around online or at the library for Tennyson or Spencer.  For music, I've been putting on Loreena McKennitt's hour-and-a-half-long performance at the Alhambra, which has lots of eastern-style music thrown in.  It is very inspirational and mood-setting. 
talk at people
We're assuming here that you have a general idea of what your story is going to be, but you're stuck and you don't know where to go.  Think-vomit at people.  Spill what you have, what you think you might have, what your problems are.  Sometimes, getting everything out helps shake answers loose that you did not know you had already.  And if you don't manage to shake anything loose yourself, your friend may have some excellent points with which to aid you.  If nothing else, at least they will be able to share your pain when you are done talking.

There are days when I have to go trawl my own Pinterest boards to restore the visual images I had of my story-worlds.  And then there are days when I get it into my head that I am artistic and I make collages, as you see...  These activities are mind-numbing in a way, and if they don't help me get a good visual image back, they do at least make me fed up with GIMP and the internet so that I want to do nothing but make pretty words in my document just to restore some sanity to the world.

This is less a case of things I use and more things that I do.  
But I hope that helps the inquirer and anyone else who was looking for some assistance.  

12 ripostes:

  1. GIMP--frustration wise--is the devil on horseback. That being said, your collage are awesome and your ideas forgetting back into inspiration. Ironically, I do find the last one most helpful which is probably because it is kick-in-the-pantsish.

  2. I love how you all beat up on GIMP - my main horse in the design world. If you just know how to work it, it can be marvelous. Of course, I have been using it for nigh on 4 years now...

    I really must try one of these collages. I'm hoping that if I have key colors/images/emotions in one graphic, I should be able to gather my thoughts a bit more, and/or get my inspiration down to a few key notes.

    Also, the 500 plunk is working rather well for me, I must say, so I owe you a bit of thanks. ;)

  3. Oh, GIMP's not a bad mare, it just isn't always intuitively obvious for people who want to use it casually. I've been using it off and on for the past four years myself, and I get along passably. That is to say, I get done what I want done. I don't usually ask for much. But there you have it, Rachel. I'll drift back toward GIMP after months in between, work a little on a project, and then become stir-crazy and fed up and go back to my writing, swearing I must give back something sensible to a relatively insensible world...

    Good on yeh, Bree. I managed to plug through a nasty scene over the past two days - I did have to leave all my characters fallen to bits last night, which wasn't pretty, but I have made progress.

  4. Pinterest is amazingly helpful; sometimes shuffling through a few of the pictures I've pinned is just the thing to get a renewed idea of where I want a book to go. I generally resort to the addicting site when, like Eliza Doolittle, I feel like singing out, "Words, words, words! I'm so sick of words! I get words all day through, first from him, now from you!" ...You get the idea. Thankfully, the feeling passes soon, but a little imagery is just the thing to keep it moving along all the faster. After all, I cannot sketch or paint and would feel a stranger in those worlds, so what medium is left to me but that of comfortable words?

    All of my recent larks in the way of poetry and music have decided Rifles is not worthy of their attention and have flown on ahead to the vacant and fertile grounds of my next book. I have been reading regularly (still plodding away at The Count of Monte Cristo), but it's the same case there. As a result, I've done a bit of side scribbling and plotting for my next story, but I don't want it to take away from Rifles, which really should receive the bulk of my time and attention. One cannot be forever pushing the same project to the back-burner, even if the adorable plot bunnies convince you it's a decent notion.

  5. Don't I know it, Elizabeth Rose. I've got a project which really should come after Between Earth and Sky knocking at my brain-pan already - and I'm only just writing Gingerune now! Not that I'm really complaining: I was beginning to wonder if anything would crop up after Between Earth and Sky, and beginning to get that gnarly kink in the bowels wondering if this was it, if I would really run dry... But I've got a Something, though it's hush-hush for now. :)

  6. Applejack? Now we all know what's your real muse... Thomas and Faulkner would be proud; inspiration is best measured in proof.

  7. "This is MY book...and you're gonna READ IT."

  8. Oh, undoubtedly... best TS line evar!

  9. I will now program all of my subsequent novels to shout this at the reader upon being opened.

  10. Program? Are you surrendering to the e-reader hegemony already?

  11. No, but I'm not allowed to admit that in front of the reading public. I was thinking more along the lines of those singing cards one gets from that one weird aunt... That sort of thing.

  12. Ha! I'm picturing a bookseller's establishment, perhaps operating under the proprietary oversight of Messrs Barnes & Noble, Booksellers, perhaps situated in a locale akin to "The Forum" at Norcross, a venue which attracts the sort of clientele that has all the pretensions of elitism with none of its actual class, when, amidst the dignified slurps of overpriced frappilatteccinos, an unsuspecting soccer mom skeptically opens the cover of an unassuming tome and the pretentiously refined silence is broken by a shrill cry.....