by Emily Conrad

As a blogger and novelist, my full time job is creativity. Unfortunately, experience in writing doesn’t make the ideas come easier; the initial inspiration is often the hardest part of the process for me. This has made the month of August a bit daunting. I’m planning to travel some this month, so I’ll have less time to post to my blog. That means I need to write a bunch of posts in advance. But where are all these ideas going to come from?

Whether your planning the layout of a room, picking what plants to add to the landscaping, or coming up with a unique date to go on with the man you married twelve years ago, you might be facing the same idea void.

So, here are some of my tools for harnessing creativity when I need it most. And they work! This post is brought to you by the first tip!

Make lists. As soon as an idea pops into your mind, get it down. If you have time, elaborate on it immediately so you don’t forget what was so inspiring about the idea by the time you have the chance to sit and work on it.

Create a perfect (brain) storm. My understanding of perfect storms is that they’re a combination of a weather events descending on one place at one time. A quick online search of what makes a storm “perfect” revealed one reference to a nor’easter absorbing a hurricane. As bad as perfect storms are in weather, they’re great in creativity. Join forces with someone else. Explain the dilemma—yup, stumble through your half-formed ideas—and let their fresh perspective offer ideas you hadn’t thought of on your own. Make sure to pick someone you don’t mind saying outlandish things to (that’s usually how my half-formed ideas sound, anyway) and someone who won’t get frustrated in the conversation about why an idea won’t work, because there’s usually a lot of both before arriving at a new plan.

Get out of your routine. When ideas simmer but just won’t come to a boil, go listen to a speaker, read something out of your normal genre, visit a museum, check out a big city three hours away or a new trail a few blocks away. When I was working on the manuscript currently under consideration with publishers, I went with a group of ladies to hear a speaker. I count that day as a major inspiration for the turn the novel took after that.

Find a good prompt source. For writers, Five Minute Friday, gives a weekly one-word prompt for a blog post. In poetry, I’ve found college level textbooks helpful with different ideas about trying out forms or styles. Whatever your endeavor, look around your community of creatives and see if anyone offers prompts. Or check out what non-fiction there is on your subject, and use the topics covered there as your source of inspiration.

What are your tips for getting out of a rut when you need to be creative?

4 tips from a novelist for harnessing creativity via @novelwritergirl