By Molly J. Anderson-Childers | Updated September 10, 2018
I recently quit my dead-end day job to pursue the freelance writing career of my dreams. It's been an interesting journey so far, filled with mis-steps and fumblings towards abundance, and the ecstasy of creation. I'm enjoying it to the fullest, but even the most creative soul has an off day. Learning to inspire yourself and be your own best muse at a time like this is crucial. Here are some of my best strategies for getting my creative juices flowing.
1. Blow bubbles in your backyard.
2. Lie back in the grass and watch the clouds roll past.
3. Roll down a hill, then do it again and again until you're dizzy.
4. Draw silly pictures and print hopscotch grids and poems on the sidewalk with chalk all over your neighborhood.
5. Write a spontaneous haiku just jot down the first seventeen syllables that pop into your mind.
6. Take a walk.
7. Make friends with someone new.
8. Call someone interesting and invite them out for coffee.
9. Go fly a kite.
10. Find a park or playground and play outside. How long has it been since you were on a slide? It's fun, even if you feel a little silly and awkward at first.
11. Learn a new joke and tell it to three people, then write it down as part of a scene in a story.
12. Dance in the rain.
13. Go barefoot in the grass.
14. Try to go a whole day without talking. Instead, write down what you want to say.
15. Wander through your favorite gallery until inspiration finds you. When you see an interesting painting or sculpture, write a poem or story about it.
16. Go book-surfing at a library or bookstore. Write a question in your writer's notebook. Hold the question in your mind, walking through the stacks, and then open a book at random. The first phrase your eye alights on is the answer. (I can spend hours doing this.)
17. Take a long nap.
18. Where are you when inspiration finds you? If you get your best ideas while driving, try taking a long scenic drive. Take along a mini-recorder, or call yourself and leave a voicemail if you get an idea along the way.
19. When all else fails, try a long, hot shower. It seems like I'm always in the shower when the Muses come calling. They have a funny sense of humor, and I'm sure it amuses them to see me scrambling to dry off and get to a notebook. Not being able to write an idea down because I have shampoo in my eyes is sure to spawn inspiration.
20. Take a bubble-bath with your favorite book. Keep a notebook at hand for any unexpected inspirations. See an inspiring quote or a great line? Write it down and use it to inform your own work.
21. Make a writing date with a friend and keep it. Accountability can light a fire under your butt like nothing else.
22. Join a writers' group.
23. Can't find a writers' group that's a good fit? Start one!
24. Give yourself a deadline to produce a certain word count or finish a project, and stick to it.
25. Take care of yourself and be sure to replenish yourself. Remember that you can't give water from an empty well.
26. For one week, treat writing like a job. Show up at the same time, consistently, to meet the Muses. Don't stop writing until you've done at least 100 words. Free-write. Don't worry about making sense just get your hand moving.
27. Try reverse psychology. Forbid yourself to write anything more creative than a grocery list for a few days. Soon, you'll be full of ideas, and chafing with impatience to write.
28. Get out of the house. Walk the dog, take a drive, run some errands just take a break and come back to your project with a fresh perspective.
29. Try writing under a tree, on a park bench, in your favorite coffee-shop. Often, a change of scene can imbue your work with juicy creative energy.
30. Just can't seem to get your heart into your new painting? Shift gears and work on another creative project. Write a poem instead, and call it a day!
31. Play with clay.
33. Play with a slinky, Rubik's Cube, or other toys to limber up your creative muscles and re-connect with your inner ten-year-old.
34. Sing in the shower.
35. Meet another writer for coffee and a chat. Ask her, "What's your favorite way to inspire yourself? How do you deal with writer's block?" No matter how crazy it sounds, take her advice maybe it'll work for you, too.
36. Shake up your daily routine. Maybe your work isn't getting stale maybe it's you! It's easy to get into a rut getting out of it again can be tough. Try something new. Take a risk. Find something you feel excited about and do it, even if it's not directly related to writing. Everything is material every experience, every mistake, will feed your work.
37. Write inspiring quotes from your favorite writers in your journal, one at the top of each page. Use them as writing prompts and story starters.
38. Read graffiti everywhere you go. Collect it. Write down anything original, funny, or surprising.
39. Take a poem walk. Bring a notebook with you. Write down every word you see. Steal words from bumper-stickers, street-signs, and shop-windows. When you have a few pages full of words to choose from, rearrange them and select the juiciest words for a poem or story.
40. Write upside down, backwards, sideways, or in a spiral.
41. Write in Pig Latin. Or, make up your own secret code!
42. Write with different colors. If you usually use a pen, try a pencil or a crayon today.
43. Write with your non-dominant hand; with your toes; with a pen clamped between your teeth.
44. Play hopscotch.
45. Climb a tree.
46. Baseball can be very meditative hit a few fly balls, or play a game of catch.
47. Write down your dreams for a month without re-reading them. After a month has passed, peruse your nocturnal scribblings and see if there's anything here you can build on. Can you expand an image you dreamt into a poem, story, or song?
48. Go for a hike, and get out of your head for a while.
49. Create a portable inspiration kit with art supplies, a blank journal, and lots of juicy pens. Carry it everywhere so that you'll be prepared when inspiration strikes.
50. Have an un-birthday party for yourself, and give yourself the gift of inspiration a new journal, some art supplies- anything to feed your creative soul.
51. Write a poem on an index card, with your name and email address on the other side, and a request for whoever finds it to send you an email and let you know how far it traveled. Then seal the card in a small Ziploc bag, attach to a helium balloon, and send your poetry out into the universe. Watch as it disappears into the sky, and make a wish that it finds someone who needs a little poetry and light today.
52. Treat yourself to a massage, a pedicure, a new haircut, or a fabulous pair of shoes. Sometimes, a new look can be inspiring. Taking great care of yourself always pays big dividends in the self-esteem department.
53. Branch out. Write something different. If you love to read, why not submit a book review to the local paper? Shake it up.
54. Sit by running water and listen to the voice of the river. Write her story.
55. Listen to a favorite author's books on CD, or some spoken word. One of my favorites is The Jack Kerouac Collection, by Rhino Records. Always inspiring!
56. Write a list of your creative dreams on a small piece of biodegradable paper. Plant it in a pot, along with some seeds for your favorite flower or herb. As the seeds spout, grow, and bloom, so will your dreams blossom and bear fruit.
57. Watch an inspiring bio-pic about a favorite musician, artist, or writer. My faves? Cadillac Records, Notorious, 8 Mile, Frida, Ray, Walk the Line, The Doors, The Hours, My Left Foot, and The Band.
58. Find a new book about writing or art to inspire you. I'm loving Natalie Goldberg's Wild Mind a classic!
59. Surf the net for like-minded souls, and subscribe to inspirational blogs, newsletters, and social media for a dose of virtual inspiration!
60. What makes you uncomfortable? Write about something that makes you squirm.
61. What scares you? What wakes you in a cold sweat at three in the morning, heart pounding wildly? Write about your fears, your nightmares. Glean the treasures that hide in the dark. Make friends with the monsters under the bed, and the things that go BUMP in the night.
62. Send your favorite writer a fan letter, and let them know how much you love their work. (If they have already passed from this life, you can still "mail" them a letter by slipping it into a copy of one of their books at your favorite bookstore or library.)
63. Do some character-work. Spy on them like a private detective, and do a character interview. Get to know the people on the pages of your notebook.
64. Imagine yourself with magical powers, and fly over your creative blocks on a magic purple carpet. When your Inner Critic comes knocking, throw on your invisibility cloak, or take a walk in your Seven-League Boots.
65. Visit a graveyard the older and spookier, the better! Make rubbings of interesting images, names, and epitaphs; or record them in your writer's notebook. Make up stories about the folks laid to rest there. (If you're me, these stories might include cackling witches honoring their mighty dead on Samhain night, walking skeletons, ghosts and ghouls, vampires, werewolves, and zombies, coyotes howling at the moon, and revenge from beyond the grave.) Write about their souls, and what happened to them in the afterlife. Explore your own beliefs or a character's about The Great Beyond.
66. Write the worst story ever. Do your worst with sloppy spelling, poor grammar, lazy metaphors, and clichés a-plenty! Here's a corny classic to get your pen moving. "It was a dark and stormy night. A shot rang out. The maid screamed "
67. Write a short-short story, in 100 words or less. Flash fairy-tales are fun; they really spark my imagination. Get from "Once upon a time " to "The End" in as few words as possible.
68. Write a list of ideas for stories and poems and projects, and keep it in your writer's notebook. Add to it whenever the mood strikes you. When you're stuck, pick one from the list at random, and free-write 500 words to get started. Still not feeling inspired? Pick another topic, and repeat ad infinitum. (That's Latin for "until your hand is too sore to hold a pen.")
69. Use your "blah" time to do something related to your creative work. Query a new lead, edit a chapter, or start your own blog and boost it on your favorite social networking site. This way, you're using your time productively, even if you're not necessarily doing something creative.
70. Go see a movie or a concert, then write a completely honest and unpretentious review of it for your local paper.
71. Let the visual and the verbal intersect and intertwine. Make a collage with cut-up words from one of your poems, stories, or a page of free-writing. Combine with photos, glitter, fabric, seeds, flower-petals, images from magazines and postcards, and whatever else inspires you.
72. Illustrate a poem or story with a painting, sketch, or even anime or a cartoon.
73. Write a poem in calligraphy. Make a rebus, or write a story in your very own secret code. Or, make the shapes of a poem's words echo their meaning. For example, a poem about a thunderstorm might use words shaped like clouds, lightning-bolts, and rain-drops.
74. Write a new ending for your favorite short story or fairy tale.
75. Ever feel cheated by the way a book ended? Next time, write a new final chapter, or a list of ideas for alternate endings that would have packed more of a punch.
76. Play tourist in your own town. Visit a museum or historical attraction, and write about it. Send your Muse a postcard!
77. Create a writing ritual with a blue candle, incense, a certain lucky pen all your creative soul work is magic. Light a candle and invoke your favorite Muse.
78. Keep a list of cliches in your writer's notebook. Watch your own work for signs of overused expressions, buzzwords, stock characters, and pale, sickly plots.
79. Imagine what a cat would write, if he could. Pen a poem from a dog's-eye-view.
80. Listen to birdsong, and imagine their conversations. What are the larks twittering and tweeting about on this bright morning?
81. Got a story that's just not working? Try telling it from the point of view of several different characters, and see if one version stands out. Maybe your main character isn't really your main character at all!
82. Take a secondary character from a story you've already finished, and give her the starring role in a story all her own!
83. Write a letter to yourself, from one of the characters in a story that's giving you trouble. Sometimes this can spark a new idea or take the tale in an unexpected direction.
84. Write a great first line, and then create several things from this one root source. Use it to craft a poem, a story, a collage, an essay
85. Take your favorite quote and use it as a poem-seed or story-starter.
86. Surf the web for an interesting or inspiring news story, and write a story about it from the point of view of each of the major players in the tale.
87. Make a cup of tea and write a short poem, or doodle while it's brewing. Or, try for speed and see how many words you can set down in five minutes. Then, try to beat that record.
88. Who inspires you? Is it a musician, an artist? One of your teachers, mentors, or friends? Write a thank-you note to your muses and the guardian angels of creative juiciness.
89. Go through an old diary or writer's notebook, looking for seminal lines, and ideas for new work. Star, underline, or highlight your favorite finds, then use them to create a plethora of new poems, songs, and stories.
90. Listen to jazz or classical music, and write or draw something in response to it. Even some abstract doodling with a paintbrush in hand can free your mind, opening you up to inspiration.
91. Create your own Zen Garden.
92. Explore your neighborhood with a camera or sketchbook in hand. Walk until you find a subject that sparks something in your soul. Then, make a quick sketch or snap a few photos.
93. Break out of your grown-up mentality and play with words again. Challenge a friend to a game of Boggle, Scrabble, or Balderdash. Do a word-search, or a crossword puzzle.
94. Be your silliest self. Make up a fun poem or story. For inspiration, read a few books by Dr. Seuss. He's got a black-belt in the Art of High Silliness.
95. A wise man once said, "You can never go home again." Visit the place that is your heart's home on the page, or in person- and prove him wrong.
96. Now, travel to a galaxy far, far away. Write about life on another planet. (Do #95 and #96 back-to-back for an added creative punch.)
97. Do you believe in magic? If you don't, write about a character who's convinced it's real. If you do believe, write a story about a cynic.
98. Cruising my favorite flea market, I came across some lovely mosaics made from broken glass and crockery. Sometimes, you have to break something in order to create anew. Take apart an old poem or story at the seams and craft it into a new form.
99. Find someone who inspires you to achieve more. It could be a rival, a friend or mentor, or someone you've never even met. Learn something new about them every day until you've gleaned a few important things: inspiration, motivation, a new idea or two and the realization that they, too, are human flawed and imperfectly perfect, just like you.
100. Spend a day in nature and observe all that takes place as you explore. At the end of your hike, stop to take down a few notes or make some quick sketches in your journal as a reminder of the lessons learnt in the wild.
101. Write your very own list of 101 Ways to Delight and Inspire Yourself. Realize that you are your own best muse, already, whether you know it or not.
Next Muse: An Exclusive Interview with My Inner Muse
©2010 Molly J. Anderson-Childers. All rights reserved.
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