How we get ideas is a bit of a mystery. We dread being asked that question when we give talks. Because the ideas just come, don’t they? In my case they come when I’m cooking, driving, swimming, walking or doing the ironing. They don’t usually come when I’m sitting at my computer. An odd overheard conversation, a chance encounter or something I see will spark off an idea for a story.
A lot of writers have been unable to work during lockdown. Is it perhaps because they’re tucked away from life and have nothing to write about? Or is it just the anxiety?
Can you force the creativity?
Ironically, in looking for prompts for my prompt book, I’ve used other prompts to give me ideas. So, for example, the prompt I’ve just read said: “Write a scene or story that includes a character eating cereal. What does a character's favourite cereal say about their personality? Do they carefully pick the marshmallows out of their Lucky Charms, or do they eat Aldi bagged cereal by the handful straight out of the container? Or, perhaps your character prefers healthy oatmeal with no added sugar.” https://www.writersdigest.com/be-inspired/characters-in-a-crunch I’ve turned this into “Write a story about a character shopping in a supermarket. Every item they pick creates a thought. Weave those thoughts together to make a story.”
I’ve now written two books of prompts like this. Each contains a prompt for every day of the year. Other writers have contributed. I’m working on a third and then I’m going to put all three together so that you have a choice each day. I use these myself to inspire short stories, pieces of flash fiction, memoir or articles that I complete between major edits of my main projects. It’s good to get away from editing and back to something more creative.
I’ve recently had some success in competitions; I’ve had three pieces listed and they’ll all appear in anthologies. In all three cases I was writing to a particular theme.
On my Fair Submissions web site I have a section called “Themed” where you can find calls for submission and competitions that have a particular theme. Look in the labels and find “Themed.”
So, yes, I think you can force creativity a little and you don’t have to wait for inspiration to kick in.