51 ways to kick-start creativity

I was going to do 101, but ran out of ideas.

1. Journalling – Set aside 30 minutes every day and write solidly for the entire time on anything that crosses your mind.

2. Road maps – Draw a map of where you see your story going. A map will give you a sense of direction. A letter arrives at the door. Then what? It falls into the fireplace before she can read it. Then what? If you’re not sure, include forks in the road and question marks.

3. Time Limits – Pile on the pressure! Set a time limit to finish the next chapter or scene.

4. Turn to History – Find out about a famous historical figure. What was their life like? Can you use any of the details in your story?

5. Work on Something Else – if a story just isn’t progressing, leave it be for a while. Work on something else. The positive feelings from accomplishing something will carry over into your other work.

6. Write from the point of view of an inanimate object – A birdcage whose occupant just died, a teddy bear, a shoe. Write a scene from their point of view. (I’ve a short example here).

7. Recall – Close your eyes. Think of an object in the room. Try to remember as much detail about it as you can. After 2-3 minutes, open your eyes and write down what you thought, without looking at the object.

8. Make a collage – Cut photos that you like out of magazines and newspaper (e.g. a woman, a car, a shoe, and a penguin). Then write a story which includes all the items.

9. Use your dictionary – Open to a random page, select a funny-looking word, and then spend some time inventing what that word could possibly mean.

10. Alphabet Stories – Write a 26-sentence-long story where the first letter of every sentence begins with the subsequent letter of the alphabet, e.g. Anna walked down the road. By the side walk was a dog, lying on it’s side. Could it be dead?

11. Get fresh input – Do something new every day, whether it be listening to different music or exploring areas of town you don’t know, etc.

12. Flip-flop the Situation – Turn defeat into victory or victory into defeat. Make the villain a hero. Reverse the situation.

13. Ask ‘why’ 5 Times – Write down a problem. Then ask yourself ‘why’ 5 times. E.g. The window is broken. Why? A brick flew into it. Why? A kid threw the brick at me. Why? The kid thought I was his mother. Why? His mother lives next door.

14. Read Critically – Look at what other people have done. Why do you like/dislike the story?

15. Forced Analogy – Take a random object, list its attributes, then force a relationship between those attributes and a part of your story. See here for examples.

16. Sentence-stealing – Choose a story you like. Take the last line and make it the first line of yours.

17. Draw from your own experiences – List down 30 things that happened to you this month.

18. Draw – Use the right side of your brain. Draw!

19. Clichés – Pick a cliché and use it as a story prompt, taking it either literally or metaphorically.

20. Carry a journal with you everywhere – In addition to #1, make sure to have a notebook with you for jotting down ideas, descriptions, sentence fragments, quotes, etc.

21. Relax! – Give yourself time to unwind and let your subconscious do the thinking for you. Meditate, if needs be. Really. Try empty your mind. Let your subconscious do the work. You’re just annoying it.

22. 3 Wishes – What would you or your character do with 3 wishes?

23. Try new techniques – Every day, choose a different item on this list to do.

24. Make Goals – Make some reasonable daily goals regarding word count and try to stick to them.

25. Research – choose a random topic e.g. bees and learn as much as you can about them.

26. Use Photographs – Take a photo album and open it to a random page. Study one of the photos intently, then write down any associated memories or feelings.

27. Challenges – List 10 challenges you overcome in the last few months, then pick one and write about it.

28. Make Associations – Take a large piece of paper, right a topic in the middle, and then generate as many ideas as possible.

29. Twitter – Ask your followers to submit a random word. Pick 5 and use them in a story.

30. Make Headlines – Look at today’s news headlines. How do they make you feel? What kind of headlines are on the news in your character’s world?

31. Function Lists – Pick a random object, e.f. a scarf. List 20 uses for it. Be creative! How would a serial killer use it? A dog? A prince?

32. Use Your Senses – Think about an experience you’ve had. Jot down sensations for each of the five senses. What do you see? Smell? Taste? Feel? Hear?

33. Make Trump Cards – Use index cards or something similar and make cards for each of your characters. What are their strengths? Weaknesses? Special abilities?

34. Eavesdrop – Listen in on other people’s conversations on the bus, in a coffee shop, when you’re in a restaurant, etc. Note down parts of their conversation, or try to recreate the dialogue faithfully.

35. Change Your Habits – Do you always write on the computer? Use paper and pen. Do you write in your desk? Sit outside. Etc.

36. What if….? – Make a list of what if situations. What if you woke up in a strange room? What if your shoes travelled around at night time by themselves? Pick one and write about it.

37. Make A Playlist – Make a playlist of music that matches the mood you are trying to create in your story.

38. Talk Out Loud – Sometimes you can think better if you hear your own voice. I do this all the time (much to the amusement of anyone I’m living with).

39. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes – Pretend you’re the reader instead of the writer. If you were reading the story, where would you want it to go next?

40. Write Out of Sequence – You don’t have to write Chapter 1 before Chapter 2. Skip the difficult bits and write the fun parts. You can always go back and write in the blanks later.

41. The Non Solution – You can’t think of any way to resolve the conflict in your story. Maybe the best way is for it not to be resolved.

42. Best & Worst – What are the five best things that could happen to you or your character right now? What are the five worst?

43. Bribe Yourself – Think of something you’d enjoy or love to have. It’s your reward. Let yourself have it only if you reach your target word count for the day.

44. Excercise – Take a walk. Or do what I do and clean the house. You’ll have a clean house AND ideas by the end of it!

45. Push Ahead – Keep writing, even if it’s poorly and you hate it. You can always revise later, and you never know, you could hit a winning streak.

46. Inspiring Quotes – Look through websites for inspiring quotes about life, friendship, love, death, whatever. Beautiful words may make you want to write. (And I’ve always been a sucker for quotes).

47. Ask For Help – Get a friend to read through what you’ve written so far. Bounce ideas off of them. Ask them what they think will happen next.

48. Remember Why You Started Writing – Look at what you’re writing now. Is it something you love, or just what you think you should be writing? The writing that is most enjoyable to right is generally the most enjoyable to read.

49. Think of Writing as a Job – If you’re worried about not sounding eloquent enough, treat your writing like a simple job, like laying bricks side by side. You can straighten out the bricks later, paint them and make them all fancy. Don’t be so hard on yourself at first.

50. Talk to Other Writers – We’ve all been stumped at one point or another. And a sorrow shared is half a sorrow.

51. Just write – Stop procrastinating by reading this list and get to work, you lazy bum!

Anything else to add to the list?

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About A.M. Harte

A.M. Harte writes twisted speculative fiction, such as the post-apocalyptic Above Ground and the zombie love anthology Hungry For You. She is excellent at missing deadlines, has long forgotten what ‘free time’ means, and is utterly addicted to chocolate.
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2 Responses to 51 ways to kick-start creativity

  1. It’s a neat list of suggestions. I’ve used most of them at one point or another.

    I’ve found hard deadlines with some invisible wiggle room get the most writing done for me.

    But some days, well… nothing comes.

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