I’ve been making up stories since I was old enough to hold a pencil. Unfortunately, I think I let some of my best ideas get away in my twenties, when I was working too much and drinking too much beer to actually work on my writing. I wasn’t recording my ideas. Over beers with whichever loser I was dating, I would say something like “I think I’m going to write a book about some girl in her twenties who’s dating a total stoner.”
Unfortunately, none of these ideas were ever written down, except for the 22 partial manuscripts I found in manila envelopes in a box in the closet of my spare room. After looking these over, I’m forced to admit I shouldn’t have drank so much beer in those days. The part that makes me sad is that even if the premise is stupid (like the dating a stoner thing above, which also happened to be true for me at the time), the idea itself, had I written it down, might lead to a character or plot point that I could use in another story.
A funny thing happens when I write a lot. The more I write, the more ideas I have for even more writing that I could do. I’m tired of finding all over my house sheets printed from the internet (“BMW drivers really are jerks, studies find” – this was from the Wall Street Journal, I swear), index cards with names or ideas scrawled on them, and clippings from the 4 local newspapers that I buy on Sunday. I have ideas written on the back of receipts from the grocery store and on an appointment card from my chiropractor’s office.
To control all of these papers, I created what I am calling my Inspiration Box. It’s a basic clear tote, a little more than twice the size of a shoebox. I can throw all of my clippings and ideas into the box. I am even going to incorporate my Image File (which is a file of photos and drawings that I love). The goal of the Inspiration Box is to be able to go to it when I need an idea for a character or setting or event for my story. The box is big enough to hold a lot but not so big that it’s overwhelming.
My freelance ideas will continue to live in a more mundane and accessible folder. This also helps me draw a line between fiction and freelance.
One other tool I use for inspiration is meditation. You can simply relax and focus on your breathing for a few minutes, or visit this website to do nothing for two minutes, while focusing on a soothing picture while listening to the waves.
To find inspiration for your writing, slow down and look within.
C. Hope Clark