As a writer, staring at a blank screen is incredibly painful. We cross our fingers and wait and hope. And…. nothing. Or we write in circles, never really capturing the heart of a story worth telling. This is when you need to go on a serious mission to find your lost Muse. She’s a seriously valuable piece of the writing puzzle and you won’t get far without her.
It’s interesting that this month’s topic is finding inspiration. It’s a topic I revisit often as a working writer and I give workshops about this. I’ll let you in on a secret about my workshops, by the way– I tend to present seminars on the things that are toughest for me. Writing synopses, making meaningful revisions, and finding creativity when you’re feeling burned out are all topics that I workshop because they challenge me on a regular basis.
This means there’s no one easy answer to renewing creativity. I approach it differently year in and year out, trying to coax my tired Muse into productivity. Back in my early days as a writer, it might be enough inspiration for a new book to go see a movie with a cute new romantic hero playing the lead. Sighing happily, my Muse would write him a story all his own. But the longer you write, the deeper you need to dig for those creative nuggets. The surface ideas have all been used up– two or three times! So to have something new to say, I need to really woo my Muse into compliance.
In a nut shell, I find inspiration in other art forms. I get ideas from reading, from watching movies, visiting museums, looking at art work, listening to music and so on. These are all ways to prime the creative well and get ideas flowing. There’s a kind of cross-pollination that takes place between seeing a cute new actor on screen one day (that trick still works!) and hearing a moody piece of music the next. Mix in a historic painting or an evocative piece of poetry, and something new might bubble to the surface.
But as I revisited my old tips and tricks list, I found this kernel of wisdom in my notes- “I learned this trick from my dad, the best storyteller I know. He always has something interesting to say about his day—a funny story, a kernel of wisdom, a tale of adventure. Where does a farmer turned truck driver come up with this great material? Dad isn’t exactly James Bond. But everyday he talks to people. Better yet, he knows how to listen. He asks the woman at the checkout about her day, and she’s more than too happy to tell him. He makes a casual observation to a fellow farmer at the market, and he gets an ear full. These varied voices are great inspiration for dialogue, they give you alternate views of life, and they increase your emotional empathy—a key component for good writing. We can’t write about human nature if we don’t embrace it.”
I still love this notion and lately–more than anything else– this is what works for me for finding new stories. I think it’s why I love travelling more these days. I am immersed in “newness”. New people, new places, new voices, new stories. Talking to strangers yields all kinds of interesting tidbits. I like hearing about peoples’ jobs and what drew them to those kinds of careers. That’s so telling for future heroes and heroines. I like hearing hints of everyday struggles or stories about how they met their significant other. Ask a friend how she met the guy she married. Or about their first date. It’s sure to spark a creative kernel that will have your Muse off and running again.
Three-time RITA nominee Joanne Rock never met a romance subgenre she didn’t enjoy. The author of over sixty romances from contemporary to medieval historical, Joanne dreams of one day penning a book for every Harlequin series. A former Golden Heart recipient, she has won numerous awards for her stories. Learn more about Joanne’s imaginative Muse by visiting her online: