Are you tired of being told to ‘just write’ when you’re feeling uninspired? I scoured the web and found some of the most unconventional advice ever given and methods ever used for finding inspiration to write. I wanted to find something fresh, and different. Here is what I came up with…
Embrace Your Insignificance | Ayodeji Awosika
I put this one right at the top because, what on earth? I actually laughed out loud when I read this and imagined myself giving this as advice to another writer when they were stuck. “Don’t you worry, just embrace your insignificance and all will be well.”
However, Ayodeji Awosika, who wrote this piece of advice as part of a mammoth list of 99 Ways to Get Inspired to Write, had some hard-to-swallow substance to back up the statement. “Oftentimes, we lack inspiration because of fear. We’re afraid because we feel like the world is waiting for us to fail, like there’s a spotlight shining on our inadequacy. We live on a planet that’s one of billions of planets in one of billions of galaxies, each of which contains billions of stars. In the grand scheme of things, you’re insignificant. Nothing you do “matters,” except that it matters to you. Go for it, because you have nothing to lose.” Ouch, and yay.
Do the 30 Circles Challenge | Bob McKim
In a 2008 TED Talk, Tim Brown, CEO of the innovation and design firm, IDEO, spoke about how playfulness is a gateway to creativity. Trouble is, a lot of adults keep this gate shut. He spoke about how different organizations around the world are encouraging playfulness among team members using clever design and work culture engineering. One of the tools he gave was the 30 Circles Test which he learnt from his mentor, product design professor, Bob McKim.
“One of the things we tend to do as adults… is we edit things,” Explained Brown. “We stop ourselves from doing things. We self-edit as we’re having ideas. And in some cases our desire to be original is actually a form of editing.”
So the idea with the 30 Circles Challenge is to keep on going. Don’t stop to think. Just do. It apparently helps to build your creative fluency and flexibility as explained on the IDEO website.
Here’s how it works. You start off with a sheet of paper upon which are drawn 30 circles. Your job is to turn as many of them into recognizable objects (e.g. smiley face, basket ball, clock face) in three minutes.
Do a Number Two in the Loo | James Altucher
Never in my years of writing did I imagine I would hear that making a poop clears up your thought channels too. It’s that same guy above, Ayodeji, who brought this one to my attention. He credits this tip to James Altucher, but I couldn’t find the original reference. Before I give you the run down, you need to know that this Mr Ayodeji Awosika is one of the most prolific writers I know. He’s all over Medium and churns out so much stuff, it’s insane. Anyway, in that same list of 99 Ways to Get Inspired to Write he says that Altucher’s take on this bowel movement thing is that if your body is clogged up your mind will be too.
So next time you’re trying to push out ideas onto paper and failing, do yourself a favor and go push out some number twos first. Cracked me up.
Look at Something Green or Blue | Lesley Vos
In a listicle on things that can help you find inspiration for writing on C.S. Lakin’s ‘Live Write Thrive’ blog, Vos wrote, “Researches claim that these two colors can influence our creativity. It happens because we associate a blue color with sky or ocean (openness in general), and a green color gives us signals of growth.” There was no detail of the actual studies referenced so I looked them up. I came across a 2009 article on Science Daily that said a University of British Columbia study confirmed that blue “blue encourages us to think outside the box and be creative.” There is no mention of green. Another article referencing a different study in the United Kingdom, said that exposure to the color green led to “improvements only in visual creativity, not the verbal variety. So if you’re writing a screenplay, green paper may not help—but if you’re designing sets for the movie, it’s definitely worth a try.”
So, I would paint my walks blue for now if I were you. Leave green alone.
Drink a Glass of Wine | Tonya Thompson
Given the bad rap that writers have with alcohol, you’d think we’d all be advising against drinking while writing. In a 2018 article on the ServiceScape.com blog, Thompson listed ’12 Things to Do When You Don’t Feel Inspired to Write.’ Among these was this most welcome advice, “Drink wine.” She referenced an Australian study published in the journal ‘Consciousness & Cognition‘ and written about in The Independent. Some of these studies make you wonder… Anyway, the key factor here is ‘moderate amounts.’ You can be sure you won’t be doing much writing if you are sloshing around on the floor because you can’t walk anymore.
“Alcohol is so linked with creativity,” lead author of the study, Dr Mathias Benedek, said. “Previous research has found almost half of the great writers had a history of drinking. We found that a small drink can indeed help with certain aspects of creativity.”
“There are two theories for how this works,” explained Dr Benedek. “The first being that when you are really focusing on solving a problem, you can become fixated so that your mind gets stuck on one way of addressing it. Alcohol makes it more difficult to keep all the parameters of the task in mind, but that can also help you come at it from another direction.
“The second theory is that alcohol, which is distracting from the central task, allows you to tap into your unconscious mind and find alternative solutions,” he explained.
Give Up on Your Novel & Start Another One | Michael Chabon
Michael Chabon worked on a novel for 4 and a half years, resulting in 600 pages. He became frustrated with the project and dropped it to start what would become the critically acclaimed Wonder Boys, which he wrote in 7 months. All 368 pages of it. It was published the following year, in 1995.
Chabon used his fears of not being good enough for a next novel and his exasperation at throwing away so much work and time as inspiration for the main character of Wonder Boys, a professor who has been working on a novel for 7 years. The novel was adapted into a movie of the same name.
There you have it. If you need any more advice, I’ll be over here embracing my insignificance.