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Building A Creative Toolkit: How To Find Inspiration For Your Next Project

A wooden simple boat sits on a clear lake facing a castle on an island surrounded by trees. Forest covered hills covered in clouds and mist can be seen in the distance.
Photo by Atrem Sapegin on Unsplash

Now that we've talked about upcoming writing courses and retreats, it's time to face the dreaded blank page. Writing can be difficult at the best of times but it is even harder when you don't have any ideas. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to replenish your creative fount.

The nature of art means that different things will appeal to us as individuals. By archiving what inspires you while considering what about that work moves you, it is possible to hoard potential ideas. This archive is called a creative toolkit and can be constructed for various art forms, but we'll be focusing on writing today.

Try Cutting Up Existing Works

We do not condone plagiarism, but this technique can really kick things into gear. Try printing out a poem, quote, or line of fiction that you love and cutting each line up. Lay them across the table and pick some that speak to you. Don't have a printer? You don't have to print anything out. Simply select a book or article that you already own and highlight some appealing lines. From there, you may find ideas naturally come to you as your brain tries to stitch together a story.

Consider Your Favourite Pieces

Take a moment to think about or even reread your favourite works. Try to think critically about what it was that drew you to them; perhaps it was the subject matter, the tone of voice, or a particular twist. Take note of these and see if any of them spark ideas for you. If they don't, keep them for the future - they may be better suited to a different time and place.

Seek Out Art

Many of the greats took inspiration from art. Art comes in many forms; paintings, statues, photographs, fan art, video games, comics, maps, and more. You can go to your local museums, vintage stores, or just peruse sites like Pinterest to find cool images that speak to you.

Try saving links or pictures in a master file with your cut-up lines and favourite piece notes. If you find yourself connecting story threads, you can put these images in a mood board, but we will get to that in a moment.

Discover Natural Wonders

Nature is a beautiful and terrifying thing that can give endless inspiration. Since the dawn of humanity, we have found story ideas in the creatures and world around us. Try exploring your local area, watching nature documentaries, or even using Google Maps. You may find that combining creatures gives you an interesting monster or that a particular place sparks an idea for an environment. Take note of what dazzles and terrifies you.

A person sits at the end of a wooden dock  surrounded by clear water and towering cliffs covered in trees. The sky above is a clear blue and the scenery is reflected in the water.
Photo by S Migaj on Unsplash

Try People Watching and Eavesdropping

There's a reason that the writer stereotype involves sitting in coffee shops. Heading to your local indie coffee shop could provide more than just pleasant background noise and caffeinated beverages. People-watching can lead to ideas for characters, plotlines, and even pieces of dialogue. Take note of any interesting tidbit (while being respectful and within the law) that you come across. If it is not possible to leave your home, browsing social media and checking your messages could also inspire you.

Take A Trip Down Memory Lane

Do you have a particularly striking memory? Perhaps you've had a brush with death, achieved something incredible, or even seen a ghost. Rifle through your memories and see if anything could be utilized or expanded upon.

It's not just your memory that could be inspiring - try talking to your loved ones or neighbours about their life stories. Hearing about their lives could bring some ideas bubbling to the surface; if you want to write the full story, do get their permission and perhaps give them a tribute message or payment from your work.

Read News Headlines

While reading the news can be stressful, it is possible to find some potential story nuggets in current events. Sometimes you could come up with a plotline for an apocalyptic short story or horror piece just from keeping up to date with recent events. We recommend doing this in small chunks to prevent getting too down.

Dive Into History

History is, in itself, a bunch of stories weaved together. There are millions of individual tales alongside the sagas of nations; perhaps true events could lead somewhere interesting. Plus, you'll even learn something new or find patterns in human behaviour to build on. You don't even have to take a trip to your local city archives or library - people are always ready to talk about fascinating aspects of their personal or family history.

On a white desk sits a pile of old worn letters tied together with black string. A black fountain pen and inkwell sit alongside them surrounded by old photographs in sepia and black and white.
Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Keep A Journal

Journals are inherently self-reflective devices that can be used to track all kinds of things. From your daily activities to story ideas to dreams, having your Notes app or a notebook handy at all times is fantastic. We suggest noting down your dreams and keeping an eye on any unusual happenings in your life.

Join A Writers’ Group

Writing is often seen as a solo activity and this is only partially correct; behind every great writer is at least one writer and editor friend. Having people to bounce your ideas off can help you see your idea from a new angle or bring entirely new possibilities to the table. Look up local writers’ groups, or make your own with a friend and see where outside input takes you.

Dig Up Your Old WIPS

Do not ever throw out or delete past work. As cringe as it may feel to re-read old WIPs, they may just need to be rediscovered at a different time. For example, I had written a short piece for a writing exercise back in 2014 that I am now rehashing into something new. I'd forgotten how much I loved this piece (even if some parts were...not the best) and don't have to battle a blank page to get my idea off the ground.

Consult A Generator

Ah, you must be desperate to reach this point - do not throw in the quill and curse the muses just yet. Generators of all kinds are vital to weaving tales of all kinds; these online sites can come up with potential names, plots, worlds, and even entire characters at the click of a button. We recommend using these as a springboard and reworking these suggestions later.

In a similar vein, writing prompts and exercises can help spark ideas. If this sounds up your alley, check out our master post of prompts to see if any work for you.

After exploring all of these options, you may find that you have a handful of potential ideas ready to go from your new toolkit. Now it's time for the exciting part - getting stuck in. You may be someone who prefers to start brainstorming or making mood boards and playlists; the pantser types among you may want to just dive in and start freewriting rather than planning. No matter your writing style, what matters most is getting started.

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