Inspiration is a mysterious beast. Whether you believe it hails from the touch of Odin's Mead or a sudden synergy of experience inspiration is the highlight of creating.
By now only people living in the remotest of locations won't have heard the story of how the first Harry Potter novel unfolded for JK Rowling while she was traveling on a train. In my imagination this has inspired a small army of aspiring authors to take to the rails clutching notebooks and laptops hoping that lightening with strike twice in the same place.
And if it has, I don't think they would be going that far wrong. Below I'm going to list key actions that really kick my brain into gear. If you're lucky they might work for you. I'm talking specifically about writing, but most of the ideas below will work for inspirations seekers of all kinds.
- do something different
Doing something away from your normal routine forces your brain out if its normal thinking patterns. If you can go outside your comfort zone even better. You stop repeating your life and start constructing it. This cannot help but change your perspective.
-carry a notebook and a pen at all times
I know! I know! Every writing course since the beginning of time labors this point. But do you? Don't count on your memory to retain the glittering gold of the moment.
- write something different
Switch genres, if only for an hour or two. Be really brave and switch forms. Writing a play requires a very different way of thinking to working on a novel.
- explain where you're stuck (for a new idea or on a plot point) to someone else
This is best done with a quiet friend (or cat). The act of talking aloud changes your brain processes, and simply having to explain your reasoning will show up strengths and weaknesses in your plot. (Cats are particularly good at making you justify yourself. It's in their nature to be aloof.) But you're not looking for extensive feed-back. Other people's ideas are often destructive to emerging ideas, so in desperate circumstances (if your friends are of the loquacious variety and you have no cat) you could always use a plant pot. Although having someone point out huge misconceptions/plot holes is as useful as it is painful.
- accept that you need fallow time
Creatives are like fields. Sometimes your soil is exhausted. You need to step back and rejoin the human race for a while. Maybe it will be hours. Maybe weeks. Perhaps even longer. But you cannot force good ideas.
- think about turning the music off
For some people music is inspirational for others like myself it's distracting. Music affects mood and if it's not in harmony with what you're writing then it's not helpful. Although music will work for some, it's rarely good for you to split your attention.
- read other people
This post was inspired by reading about Fiona Glass' Archimedes moment.
-accept sometimes your brilliant inspiration isn't quite right and will need further development
All of this is brought to you while I wait for my very kind, patient and lovely BBC radio producer to phone and explain why the latest version of my play (which I thought was very inspired) isn't quite right yet.