1) Draw on all of your life experiences – Anything that has happened to you or someone you know can be inspiration. Look for the nostalgia of the experience. Write about it. If you are writing fiction, go bigger. Add more perks or sacrifices to the scenario and pretty soon you can have a humorous or moving tale to share. If you are writing nonfiction, look for the moments worth remembering. Rick Bragg is wonderful at capturing those times.
2) Remove the limits and consider all possible solutions – Writers often impose boundaries on themselves. You worry about what is “right” or “real” when the truth is, readers don’t want static narration (even in biographies). Explore, experiment and question every scene. Ask yourself what else might happen, even if it’s an absurd approach or new idea. Try it. Those are the works readers remember. Creative people look at situations from a variety of angles. They can visualize dozens, maybe even hundreds of solutions. Look for every possible idea before you willingly settle on one.
3) Silence your inner critic – Perhaps the most difficult task for a writer is to stop editing themselves long enough to complete the story. A voice inside will always whisper “Is that right,” “Does this work”, “Will ___ think this is original enough?” These thoughts inhibit our creativity and can cause complete shut-down.
4) To be creative, be courageous – Day dream frequently. Dream big and dream bold. Then be willing to risk everything to share those dreams with others. Don’t stick to the rules laid out for you, make your own. Walt Disney had a wonderful saying: “Let’s plus it.” His Imagineers would come to him with an idea or model for a new creation and no matter how good it was, he would ask them how they could “plus it”. Go bigger with your story, push the envelope, plus it.
5) Work hard – Build on your dreams. Execute them. Show others why your dream is right. Ask yourself, “What if -?” Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird shows writers some beautiful examples of living for their dream and developing a story, forcing editors to see the worth in the tale. In this book, she offers some valuable insight and advice not just on writing, but for life itself.
What helps you unleash your imagination? Are there any particular places, people, music, movies or books that have helped charge your muse?