I’m a huge advocate for actively creating, instead of passively waiting for creativity to happen. I think it’s a waste of time to “wait” for inspiration to strike when you could just start throwing something together until it becomes the basic framework for something better.
The one exception I tend to hold onto is idea generation. The hardest part about my job as a journalist (not quite my job, but the easiest way to describe it) is always having to come up with new ideas on the spot. There are many times ideas just don’t come to you when you need them to.
Sometimes, you have to let them come to you first.
This is a much better strategy for creative and personal writing, of course. There tend to be fewer deadlines, and they’re much more spread out. But it can work for journalists and bloggers and other kinds of writers too. Instead of going on an idea hunt, simply approach creativity as if you’re just along for the ride.
There’s always this unexpected moment when an idea sort of slams into you unapologetically and somehow completely consumes you in a matter of seconds. There is no warning. There is no, “Hmm, I think I feel a new idea coming on.” It simply appears. And once it does, it cannot be silenced.
The mistake most writers make — even I do it, still, sometimes — is believing ideas can somehow be found.
In reality, you cannot discover something that does not want to be sought out. The best ideas — in my experience — are the ones that find you first.
Maybe it’s because these spontaneous discoveries come with excitement and a childlike sense of wonder. Perhaps the ideas that attach themselves to us have somehow chosen us specifically to carry and care for them for reasons we’ll never fully understand.
When you’re sitting at your desk feeling discouraged because you can’t seem to come up with a suitable idea, honestly, the best thing you can do is walk away from your desk. Do something that clears your mind. And don’t do it with the intention of coming up with something to write about. If an idea comes, it comes. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
There are some things in creativity you can’t force. But there are many different ways to encourage new ideas to come to you. Sometimes, for example, I spend five to 10 minutes trying to come up with an idea for a blog post. And when one doesn’t come, I just start writing until magic happens. That may not work for you. You have to find your own method for opening yourself up to your best and brightest ideas.
Don’t spend too much time looking. Let them look for you. They will always arrive, eventually, and they will always be worth the wait.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.