“…my Muse has grown out of the mulch of good, bad, and indifferent.”
This is the second part in my series of takeaways from Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing.
Previously I talked about how I ended up with Zen in the Art of Writing, and how we often downplay or ignore things we love because of others. Not anymore! Here are some ways to find ideas along with ways to keep em’ coming.
Recipes for Muses
Here are some things Bradbury recommends for finding inspiration (or muses, as he calls them!):
- Word association. One of Bradbury’s reoccurring exercises is to have a list of words and jumble them and think about them very carefully. Use your favorite nouns to generate story ideas.
- Read poetry every day. I don’t normally seek out poetry to read (it makes me feel dumb), but I think I might try this since it could help with word associations.
- Read essays. About anything and everything. Learn about bees. About dentistry and surgery. About stuff that you love but also hate (and also feel indifferently about). Learn!
- Pay attention to the fives senses. Help your reader become more immersed into the world that you are building.
- Read authors you want to emulate. Then read authors you don’t.
- Immediately write down any inspiration. This is easier than ever thanks to mobile devices and cloud storage. I dump any little idea that strikes me into Evernote. I have a note that just says “dolphinarium” thanks to a stupendously shitty documentary on an African aquarium I watched the other night. Can’t wait to use it.
- Muses can be found in anyone passionately telling a story. This is such a new and exciting concept to me. Have you ever talked to somebody whose eyes lit up when telling a story? That’s good stuff right there. Inspiration does not have to come from people doing what you do. It can come from anybody who feels strongly about…whatever they feel strongly about. Personally I love learning about how comedians test their material to up their game. Jerry Seinfield is a huge role model when it comes to perfecting your craft.
As important it is to find inspiration, it doesn’t matter if you don’t try to keep it. Here are some ways to avoid running out of creative fuel.
- Write with a love for life. Is this a cliché? I have no idea. A lot of the creative people I see online are brooders. I’m pretty sure this is worth trying, though.
- Figure out your characters’ desires (and in what way they want them). Ask your characters questions and see what their answers are.
- Feed your muses consistently. That shouldn’t be too hard if you follow the previous list!
- Surround yourself with friends that support, not ridicule. This is an important one. I am grateful that I have supportive friends both online and off. It’s still sometimes scary to say “hey! this is my idea!” but they help make it less scary.
- Write until you feel relaxed and not self-conscious or influenced by greed. This is a hard one to dissect. Basically, build up your writing muscles until it becomes second nature. Write for yourself without censoring. Don’t write what you think will sell.
What do you think? Right off the bat I’ve found several useful techniques that I can apply immediately. I found that watching documentaries on Netflix really gets my imagination going. Ice Age and aquariums and space and Alaskan parks! So many stories to tell. Best start writin’.
Next up: Getting In the Way of Your Own Story. Self-sabotage and how to avoid it – something I’ve been guilty of over and over in the past.
Other posts in this series:
About Writing & Staying Inspired pt. 1