Inspiration is a beautiful thing. It can amp you up, get you pumped, and provide a level of motivation that rivals anything else. The down side, though, is that it can be sporadic and tough to come by. I have spent months without any sort of true inspiration hitting me. I tend to get frustrated and a little depressed when that happens. I'm sure you can relate.
When it does come, though, it makes me realize something: I never stop categorizing things I experience. Maybe I do go months without actually sitting down to write. I think that I have no ideas, much less a story. Then, I'll hear something, see something, whatever, and I'm off! Suddenly, one little idea starts linking itself to a conversation I overheard weeks ago, or an image I saw while walking down the street the day before. The trick is this: always be open to inspiration
Here are some tips:
1) People watch. I'll cover this in more detail next week, but this is one my greatest sources of material. Just listening to what people say, or watching how people are dressed can give you tons of ideas. You'll never know why they are doing what they are doing; but, as a writer, you can create it.
2) Carry a pen and paper at all times. You have no idea when something is going to strike you. You must be prepared to jot these ideas down. I always have some paper and a pen on me. If I'm caught without, then I'll send myself an email through my phone. Don't let those ideas float away. As I've said before, something will come along that strings them all together at some point.
3) Give yourself a moment. We are always busy, all the time. I understand. We have "real" jobs, families, deadlines, pets, friends, errands, etc. The thing that you must do, however, is stop for a moment. If you get an idea, take five minutes to think about it. Write it down, then brainstorm. Jot down anything you think of. Once you return to the moment, keep the thoughts on the back burner. You'll become aware of a lot more around you that can help turn that thought into a story.
4) Just write. This is, admittedly, one of the most obnoxious suggestions I have ever been told. I know what you're going to say. "If I don't have any ideas, how can I write?" Although it may seem impossible, you will be surprised by how effective this can be. Start off by describing your bedroom, or the break room at work. Think about the waitress at the last restaurant you ate at. Compose the details of her outfit, her physical appearance, and then start adding some personality traits. What's the other tables she serving like? After a while, you will start to find things that interest you in what you are writing. You aren't going to publish this piece, so don't worry about grammar or structure or anything else. You may find, though, little snippets here and there that can be used for other things later on. In any event, you will get your brain back in writing mode by doing this.
5) Read. You're already doing this, I'm sure, for entertainment. For this exercise, however, maybe you should shake up the genre you're into. Find something interesting that you wouldn't normally read. If it's good, it can really get you in the mood to write. If it's bad, think about the things that don't work. Make a list of what you'd do differently, or maybe even rewrite some of the scenes. (Again, you aren't going to publish this, so you can do whatever you want.) Either way, you're going to end up in the write frame of mind. (That was a bad one, sorry!)
I hope that helps you get going on your story. Next week, we'll look at the characters that populate your piece.