I’ve been struggling to come up with writing ideas lately. Ideas usually come to me while listening to a podcast/audiobook or reading. The idea for this post didn’t come naturally to me. It’s the first time I had to think hard about what I want to write about.
After much thought I decided, I would write about what I was struggling with, how to come up with ideas. How to spark creativity. How to struggle through “writers block.” Writers block isn’t an easy thing to deal with, and it sucks not having an idea come naturally to you. But this is all part of becoming a writer. Sometimes ideas come naturally, other times you have to work for them. Sometimes you have to sit down and write without direction, hoping an idea comes to you organically by going to work.
Here are 11 ways to spark your creativity.
1. Read Books.
One of the best ways to spark creativity is to read books. Books provide us with new ideas. They provide us with in-depth analysis of a subject. This is why books are a good source for sparking creativity. Whether you are trying to write the next great novel, a screenplay, or you are like me trying to write a blog post. Reading gets your creative juices flowing because it forces us to learn something new. Even if you have a vast knowledge or the topic you are reading about, a different author always has a new take on the subject. Or a new way of presenting the material to the reader.
I try to read books outside my comfort zone. I could sit down all day and read Stephen King books or murder mysteries. But I enjoy expanding my comfort zone and reading biographies and non-fiction books. This is where many of my blog ideas have come from. Books like The 5 AM Club by Robin Sharma and Ryan Holiday’s writings on the stoics have been a huge inspiration for me. If I am really stuck for an idea, I’m sure I can sit down and read books by these authors and find some inspiration.
If you are a creative person looking for ideas and you don’t read, you are limiting your idea bank. You are doing yourself a disservice by not reading. You may find the inspiration for your next great idea in the pages of a book.
2. Listen to podcasts or audiobooks.
Some of my best ideas have come from listening to podcasts and audiobooks. I listened to Atomic Habits by James Clear twice because of the great information I received from Clear’s book. Habit formation is something that always interested me, and the way Clear presented the information is great. Not only was the book entertaining but also usable. Atomic Habits presents information you can implement in your life. By listening to Atomic Habits, it gave me inspiration for a number of my blog posts.
Listening to interviews and podcasts are a great way to discover ideas. I have come up with many ideas by listening to The Tim Ferris Show and The Joe Rogan Experience. Both podcasts use a long format, with no restrictions on how long the interview can go on. Generally, the interviews last two to three hours and allow your get inside a person’s head for that length of time. Each of these podcasts really does a deep dive into how a person operates and what make them successful. The Joe Rogan Experience is more of a free-for-all where there are no restrictions on what Joe Rogan talks about with his guests. The Tim Ferris Show really dives deep into what makes top performers succeed. What habits they have and what tricks they use to succeed. I have come up with ideas by listening to both podcasts. I would highly recommend finding a podcast that speaks to you. Your new idea may be a click away.
3. Take walks.
Some of your best ideas can come to you while you are walking by yourself or in my case with my dog. I find walking and thinking without music to be a great way to spur my creativity. Walking in an urban setting is great, but you can come up with some of your best ideas if you get into nature. When you walk in nature and you are fully engaged. Ideas organically come to you.
Stephen King makes it part of his daily routine to walk four miles. If it works for one of the most successful writers ever, I’m sure it can work for you.
4. Watch documentaries.
Another great way to spark your creativity is to watch documentaries. Watch documentaries on famous people and people who interest you. Watch documentaries on current and past events. Watch whatever interests you. Documentaries give you a behind the scenes look at topics, that you may not see otherwise. There have been documentaries that I have watched that have sparked ideas for me. One of the inspirations for starting The 52 Book Challenge was watching Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates, a documentary series on Netflix. I figured if Bill Gates made reading such an important part of his life, maybe I should make it a bigger part of mine.
5. Listen to music.
Most people have some sort of soundtrack to their lives. Whether it’s your favourite radio station or playlist, while driving to work. Or just the music that surrounds you as you go about your day. When I talk about listening to music, I mean to sit down and really listen to music to spur your creativity. Sit down and put on an album, listen to what the artist is really saying. Some music is made and marketed for commercial success. But there is music out there that is true art. Musicians are some of the most creative and different people in the world. They have a different way of seeing and experiencing the world than most of us. This is why we can draw inspiration from listening to their creative works. You may not gain much inspiration from listening to Rihanna’s song Umbrella. But if you sit down and listen to Pink Floyd’s The Wall, I’ll be surprised if you don’t have a reaction to it.
6. Read blogs or magazines.
Another way to spark creativity is to read blogs and magazines. This does not mean you have to go to the news stand to get magazines. There is plenty of free content online, through your favourite magazines website. I am constantly going on websites like Huckberry and Outside Online to read their new online articles. I also subscribe to a few newsletters like Ryan Holidays and Tim Ferriss. I don’t always read them word by word, but I usually skim them so I can get the purpose behind the article. Evan, a quick, skim through their newsletters can spark an idea.
7. Have a schedule.
I have referenced this Stephen King quote many times through my writings, but I’ll reference it again.
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” – Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Basically, have a time each day, that you allot for creative time. Ideas don’t just pop into your mind magically. They come into your head by putting in the work. It’s been sometime since I last published an article. The reason for this is I stated working some shift work, which completely through me off my regular schedule. I enjoy writing in the morning, and don’t mean at 7:00 am, I mean at 5:00 am. Before anyone else has gotten up, when you have time to yourself to think. But when I started doing shift work, it completely threw off of my sleep schedule and morning routine. One night with an altered schedule can completely throw off your schedule and routine. These things happen in life, and you have to adapt to them. But when you can get back to your schedule things, become easier.
8. Know your niche.
Know what you want to write about. I have an interest in personal development and growth. So that’s what I choose to write about, I understand this is a crowded space. If you Google search for blogs about personal development, you will come across millions of pages. But I don’t care about this, this is my interest and something I have researched extensively so that is my niche. There is no doubt I am writing about personal development through the brand of, The 52 Book Challenge. Many of the books I choose to read is related to this topic area as well. I was recently reading The Two Towers of the Lord of the Rings series, reading this book was like trying to walk thought quicksand for me. I’ve been reading this book for close to two weeks and I didn’t make any progress on it. So, I decided to change up the book I was reading and got back to my comfort zone. I decided to read Andre Agassi’s Open, this book is everything I love a story of success and personal development. What I’m getting at here is to know where your creativity comes from. The Lord of the Rings wasn’t holding my interest or sparking any creativity in me. I was struggling to read the book. So, I had to switch it up and start reading something, I knew was going to push me in the right direction. I didn’t have to force myself to read Open, it came naturally to me. Like a hot knife going through butter.
Journaling is another great way to spark your creativity. Just putting random thoughts on paper can spark some of your best ideas. I find it a great way to not only clear your mind but also to track your progress in certain areas. Like if you want to track how long you worked on your business this week, you can track this in a journal. Or if you want to track improvements in your fitness level through the year, a journal can do this as well. But a journal is great for sparking creativity, just sitting down a spewing thought onto paper is a great way to work through your ideas. Again because of my shift work my journal writing has been lacking lately, but it’s something I want to make part of my morning routine again.
A great way to spark creativity is to clear your mind. Even if you sit quietly with your thoughts for a short period of time, it may spark your creativity. There are many forms of meditation you can practices but the most common form is mindfulness, where you sit quietly and focus on your breathing. I’ve had a number of ideas come to me while I was meditating. Your mind naturally wants to drift when you are meditating and sometimes it drifts into a creative space. Mediation may be a great way for you to explore some ideas you didn’t know you had.
11. Observe your surroundings.
This one may seem weird, and I don’t suggest you go around and stare at people. You may get an unwelcomed fist to the face or a talk from a police officer. What I mean by this is, don’t go through life with your head down in your phone. Not noticing what is taking place around you. When you are walking from your parking spot to your job, actually take in what you see on your walk. Notice the smells, sights, and sounds. Notice the people who are in your community. Notice things that are happening around you. Notice things that have changed. These things may spark your next creative thought and may turn into something great.
Hope this list helps with sparking your creativity. I haven’t been posting lately because honestly, I feel out of the habit of writing. I started working some new hours, which messed up my schedule. I find I accomplish things best in the morning. A new book I have been reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, has really helped me re-establish habits in my life. This speaks to the power of habit and how easy it is to fall out of habit. Once the habit is established, it’s like you are running downhill. But to establish that habit again feels like you are running up a hill with weight. Everyone fall out of habit at some point but getting back into your groove as soon as possible is the key.
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