Month: April 2011

Subject Matters: How to Generate New Content

Guest post by Alexis Bonari

If you’re a writer, you know how difficult it is to get any work done when you’re feeling uninspired. And even if you can buckle down and type out a few paragraphs, you end up rereading them and using the “Backspace” key liberally. At least, that’s what you do if you’re anything like me. I get convinced that circumstances are conspiring against me and that I’m just not going to feel inspired enough to write.

Like many other forms of art, writing tends to make you chase after the “perfect” conditions for producing your best work, but in reality, you’re always an artist. While you might have more energy at a certain time of day, there are very few times when you’ll just feel effortlessly inspired to write and keep writing. That’s why it’s important to actively seek out inspiration to help you generate new content. You probably have your own ways of approaching this challenge, but the following are five of my favorite strategies for courting the muse and I hope they’ll find their way into your writer’s toolbox.

Respond to an Inspirational Quotation

I find that discovering the wisdom and innovation of other great writers helps me to unearth the same qualities within myself. There are many witty, provocative, insightful, and even disturbing quotes out there to read and think about. One of my favorites that never fails to elicit a reaction is from E. M. Forster: “Let yourself go. Pull out from the depth those thoughts that you do not understand and spread them out in the sunlight and know the meaning of them.” I’m always able to write something in response to this call to action, feeling more attuned to my own thoughts and senses as I look inward for inspiration.

Read Old Personal Journal Entries

If you keep a personal journal, go back to it every once in a while to glean ideas, phrases, and even visual inspiration from it. If you don’t keep one, it’s a good idea to start a journal because it’s the perfect way to get everything out on paper where you can analyze it. A journal enables you to identify the material that has the potential for poetry, short stories, novels, articles, or other genres of writing – especially if you’re a visual learner like me. It also serves as an archive for ideas that haven’t found the right context yet, so it can be a great help when you’re seeking inspiration.

Give an Elaborate Description of a Familiar Object or Feeling

When I feel uninspired, it’s usually because I don’t feel much of anything. I’m not feeling motivated, creative, or excited about the time I’ve so carefully scheduled for writing. When this happens, I try to think back on strong memories that evoke emotions – not only does this give me a way of getting in touch with my feelings, but it also gives me something to describe in writing. Often, this kind of description helps with character development, but it’s also useful in writing poetry and intimate short stories.

Find or Create an Inspirational Location for Writing

I recently read Michael Pollan’s A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams, a book that narrates Pollan’s own imperfect journey toward building the perfect writing hideaway. He designs his own one-room cabin of sorts with the help of an architect, insisting on building it himself (with some assistance) in order to form a connection with his inspirational location. It’s an interesting book, and the concept of having an inspirational and deeply personal writing location is intriguing. Reading this book can help you analyze your writing space, but you can also simply switch your location for an inspiring change of pace – try writing at the art museum, on a park bench, or even at a student orchestra concert.

Let Music Do the Hard Work

Listen to your favorite music or try something you’ve never heard before. I hate country music, but when I listen to it for writing purposes, I find that it has the ability to connect me with emotions and ideas that were somehow trapped in my subconscious. So if you know that a certain genre of music makes you uncomfortable, turn up the volume and start typing because you’ll probably have a strong reaction to it. Reactions always generate ideas, so it’s a foolproof way to start writing, no matter how uninspired you might feel.

Bio: Alexis Bonari is currently a resident blogger at College Scholarships, where recently she’s been researching health scholarships as well as scholarships for left handed students. Whenever this WAHM gets some free time she enjoys doing yoga, cooking with the freshest organic in-season fare, and practicing the art of coupon clipping.

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