How a person finds and nurtures inspiration varies and thus this guide shouldn't be taken as the be all and end all of inspiration growing. You should discard whatever doesn't ring true for you.
Notice the terminology I'm using. Inspiration conceptualised as a burst of energy is not sustainable and is inconsistent. Inspiration should therefore be re-conceptualised to something that is more akin to a field that is verdant with wild flowers and thickly forested. A place that is therefore, tended to and cared for, and that you can turn to for your creative sustenance.
Naturally, if you are passionate about what you write, you will find writing easier and livelier simply because it is bubbling with something that you love to think about and dwell on. Identify what excites you and pursue it without shame and without worrying about what you should and shouldn't write. Nothing will kill your drive faster than writing without the fire and brimstone of passion.
The world is full of oddities, weirdness and the unexpected...if you're paying attention. Keeping yourself closed off from the world does not encourage an imagination that is rich with variety. Without variety, you have less to draw on.
Therefore, be curious. Engage and be inquisitive about the world you inhabit, allowing yourself to ask questions for their own sake and for those answers to send you down rabbit holes of inquiry. Be curious about not just information, but the sights, sounds, smells and textures that you encounter. Arguably however, it is not enough to be curious if you are also not receptive to what may come back.
Receptivity means to discard your assumptions and sense of right and wrong, thus to receive without judgement. Furthermore to be receptive is to dismantle the barriers you might have erected (for whatever reason) between yourself and other people's stories, beliefs and emotions. It is other people that can inspire, inform and challenge the characters in your head.
Without curiosity paired with receptivity, you limit the variety of experiences, knowledge, insights, sensations and stories you can draw on to feed your own writing.
A lot of writing books, guides and advice stress the importance of a daily writing schedule and a particular space. This advice however, relies on this schedule and space being consistent in order to condition you into writing. What if you're a shift worker? What if the space or the tools are unavailable to you? What if you're just fucking tired and need a break for the day?
Take some pressure off of yourself. Even time spent thinking about your character and their situations is valuable time spent inhabiting your character's mind. You do not need to pressure yourself into writing every day.
When I talk about discipline here, I am talking about in terms of story structure: in other words, how things happen and why. Instead of suffering for the sake of suffering, or revealing things too soon, you can think about how prolonging a reveal could have a greater impact than if you pulled the trigger too soon. You can have highs and lows, so that the lows are contrasted with the highs and both are therefore more visible - thus packing more punch.
Discipline can also be found in just encouraging good lifestyle habits. Your mind is not separate from your body, it requires good habits in order to function at it's best. What those good habits mean for you might vary based on your body, career, location and living situation. Some of the things I am about to suggest might be problematic or difficult to acquire. If they are, don't focus on them and bring yourself down, or get salty over this article. Instead, embrace the creative challenge of substituting the below with something that is feasible for you. Disclaimer aside, my general good habit list:
- Go outside and breathe some air
- Eat some vegetables (frozen if you can't get fresh!)
- Drink some water
- Hang out with a non-object
Feeding your Imagination
Consume content! Be the voracious monster that greedily absorbs all of the content around it. Content can be anything:
- Books and comics
- Television (even trashy breakfast shows!)
- Blog, magazine or newspaper articles
- Environment (whether walking in nature or researching some unique animals)
- New and old technology
- Other hobbies
By consuming a variety of content, you enrich and diversify your imagination, giving you so much more to draw on.
* A note on games. Whilst some of the stories and ideas can be interesting and inspirational, I have often found that the level of stimulation that games provide can dull my imagination and writing. If you have been gaming for a while and find that your creativity is not as fertile as you would like, try taking a break for a couple of days and do anything else.
Rewarding your Imagination
Classic classical conditioning. Rewarding your imagination for coming up with ideas by writing them down. If you discard the majority of your ideas, images and questions as they come up, you're essentially discouraging yourself from coming up with more. So reward your imagination by writing your ideas down!
Come up with an idea while you're on the train? Tap it into your phone! Prefer the tactile sensation of ink on paper? Carry around a small notebook that you can fit into your pocket. Wearing women's jeans? Buy a smaller notebook - I have a notebook that fits into my pocket. It has gotten quite bent and scuffed but that's ok! I didn't buy it to look pretty.
The bulk of this guide was inspired by Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff Vandermeer. His chapter spent on inspiration is much more in depth and the whole book is rich with advice and ideas.