1. Go to bed. I find this to be the easiest way to get ideas. Drift off to that purgatory between sleep and wakefulness. Think about your characters, your plot, or your problem that can’t be solved during the daylight hours no matter how hard you try (or don’t try, I think that is my problem).
Inevitably, ideas will start to come to you just when you want to fall asleep. This is where the little notebook and pen on your bedside stand come in mighty handy. You will probably be wide awake after you get your good idea. You may even have to go fire up your computer again.
2. People watch. It’s a great way to work on you characterization. Is that male lead just not fleshing out believably?
Go to Walmart and take in the sights. If you’re looking for some character flaws, the mom whose kid knocks over a jar of pickles and she just wheels off without telling anyone could spark an idea. The guy trying on ladies hats when he thinks no one is looking seems like a fun person. The anorexic/bulimic teenager wolfing down Ho Hos behind a clothes rack before she runs to the bathroom to vomit them up is intriguing. Look around you; the freaks abound and they are fun to play with.
3. Read a book. I’m not saying rip it off, I’m just saying that a break from the head-pounding might give your wee little brain a chance to chill out, start firing off on some different neural passages than the tried and true, beaten down ones you’ve been stomping away at.
4. Vacation! Sit on a beach with your notebook. If that doesn’t grease the idea skids, I don’t know what will. Can’t get away at the moment? Hang up your hammock and take a ten minute swing. Draw a bath and soak for a few. Stick a little umbrella in your margarita.
5. Have a few of those margaritas. Ideas will pop up like dandelions. Not all will be viable when the high wears off, but some might be saved for future use.
6. Watch a movie. That’s all.
7. Stuck in a rut? Think of something really nasty-mean to do to your character(s). See what they do when they’re bit by a venomous scorpion. Have them catch their spouse cheating. They’re out of Lucky Charms and it’s breakfast time!!!!! Do they go on a killing rampage or just go to the store? It is a true test of character to let them react to a situation.
8. Eat chocolate. It’s sure fire. Or maybe just delicious.
9. Exercise. You need to after all of the chocolate and alcohol anyway. Go for a walk, a run, a yoga video. Best to be done alone, otherwise you’re just gossiping with your girlfriend or listening to your four-year old whine about how long it is taking you to do your workout and how he needs more fruit snacks.
10. Listen to music! This is my favorite way to be inspired. I have a soundtrack for just about every piece of writing I do. Sometimes my story is born of a song. Sometimes I think of the perfect music to go with a particular character or plot line as I go. Playing those songs inevitably gets me in the mood to build on that world or story line.
Try it. Better yet, try it with that margarita while swinging on your hammock. Take a box of Ho Hos and your little notebook and you’ll be brainstorming in no time.
If not, at least it will still be a good time.