We’ll be discussing 6 tools that you, as a writer, should have in your mental toolkit. What I mean by a mental toolkit, is a set of tools that helps shape your mindset. Sometimes these tools have physical manifestations, but the physical manifestations aren’t too important. What matters is how your mind interprets them.
The first 3 tools, which I cover in this blog post, are ideas, inspiration, and motivation. The other 3 tools are support, a place to write, and a place to explore. I’ll be covering the latter three in a second part. These tools can come in many different forms, and although they may seem very interlinked, I think it is possible to differentiate them.
Ideas. They’re tricky; one day you can have so many that it’s overwhelming, the next day your brain is a teacup without any tea in it. Sometimes the ideas we have are original, inspiring, or exciting. Other days they are clichés, underwhelming and boring. But no matter the quality of the idea, or the quantity of them, they are important.
All you need is one. One idea can be the spark that causes the literary fire. Even if your literary fire is just the equivalent of a small candle, it could still be enough to set another’s head ablaze with inspiration. The good news is that ideas can be found easily, even if they don’t appear to be very strong at first glance.
My preferred way of finding ideas is to search for them, usually by reading through writing prompts. There are thousands of writing prompts floating around the Internet, and only 1 out of every 1000 gives me any interest at all, but as I said, all it takes is one idea. If you find a writing prompt that intrigues you, write it down somewhere. You may not use the prompt exactly, but it could lead you down the rabbit hole of inspiration.
Another way to get ideas is to let them find you, and then keep them close once they do. Ideas so often come from dreams, be it a nightmare you have one night, or a daydream you have while staring out of a window. Whenever an idea pops into your head, write it down somewhere, even if it isn’t very good or doesn’t match up with your style. A horrific idea you thought of at 3 o’clock in the morning may turn into a fantastic one when you wake up fully.
But if you do find that the ideas you’ve written down are boring or absurd, try modifying it until it interests you. A good way to do this is to phrase it as a ‘what if’ question and see if it sparks further ‘what if’ questions.
Inspiration. This is closely linked to motivation, however the two are actually separate things. Inspiration is your mind being filled scenes that flow, characters that engage, and words that sing. Motivation is the urge to put it down on the page. Both go hand in hand, and both are necessary, but both are different.
Inspiration can come in many forms, and once you find something that inspires you, a whole new world can open up. Whenever you find something inspiring, try to put it where you can find it again. If it’s a song, download it or save the link to the music video. If it’s a quote, write it down in a journal, or write it on a sticky note and place it beside your computer. If it’s an image, print it out and hang it on your wall, or save it in a scrapbook. Of course these are just suggestions. It doesn’t matter where exactly you place it, as long as you can easily find it again.
The most effective way to find your inspiration easily, is to keep all of your inspiration in one place. If you have an empty notebook, you could always try making an inspiration journal, where you write down or draw quotes, song lyrics, movie titles, pictures, book covers, etc. If you prefer a digital way of keeping things close to you, try a Pinterest board, or make a folder on your computer.
Motivation. This one is really important. You can have an amazing idea and all the inspiration in the world, which many people do, but if you don’t have any motivation, nothing is going to happen with your brilliant ideas. Because if you’re not motivated to put your ideas into writing, no one will ever read them.
What motivates me, might ruin your motivation. What motivates you, might ruin my motivation. Everyone is different, and so there is generally no wrong or right way to gain motivation. Deadlines are what motivate me, and I often can’t put my best work into something until I know there’s a deadline. But some people may turn as white as freshly fallen snow when they think about having time constraints.
There is something that I find kills my motivation. Talking about my ideas. At first it may seem counterintuitive. Isn’t talking about your ideas a great way to gain feedback, come up with more ideas, and get support? Yes, it is. But motivation is the need to get things out there, and as a writer, I want to get things out there in the form of writing. When I talk about my ideas, they are out there. They may not be in writing, but a part of me feels as if it’s close enough. That’s why it kills my motivation.
If you have any ideas as to how to find motivation, inspiration, or ideas, feel free to let me know. In part two, I’ll be writing about the other three tools writers need in their mental toolkit, which are support, a place to write, and a place to explore. While the latter two may sound very physical, I’ll be writing about the affects they have on mental attitude.