Have you hit a big block to your creative awesomeness? Is your muse passed beyond your capability to hear? I to have encountered such problems, and there are a few steps that I’ve found help me break through that wall and regain my juju. I look to the past. I realize this is a vague point of reference, but if you’ll allow me I’ll be more than happy to show you what I mean.
I look to my own past works. It has on more than one occasion been the case that reading my older works has produced an idea that itself became a story unto itself. Also when I’ve went back through the annals of my own creative history, I may find a way to improve on an existing story. Editing (or rewriting as sometimes is the case) can be just the spark you need to reconnect with that force that drives you to create. I have rewritten several of my stories years after having set them aside, which is nice because I like to think I haven’t peaked in the craft at this time and can bring a new life and insight to these stories by the experiences I’ve had since the original writing and also the skill I’ve learned as a writer since that time.
Another part of the past I’ll look into is myth. All writers essentially craft modern day myth. Twilight, Harry Potter, Gabriel Allon, Jack Reacher, and Repairman Jack are all characters of our modern day myths (if you don’t recognize any of these names or titles please look them up on google or amazon). So there is no harm in looking to our foregone counterparts who told tales of mortals and immortals, monsters and heroes. (Do we create from within or merely channel that flow of imagination and storytelling that has always existed? That is a topic for a much heftier blog.) Isn’t that what we do, tell stories of good and evil, heroes and the monsters they face? The names, weapons, and faces of evil may have changed but so has the face of the earth, our stories must evolve to remain relevant. However that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from the myths of old let’s take Odysseus and his heralding voyage to return home originally give to us by Homer (and no, I don’t mean Simpson). What could we do with that? Well, make Odysseus a soldier in a different time say now and put him in the deserts of Iraq of mountains of Afghanistan. Transform his hardships into things from that region and portray his treacherous journey home. Put him in a spaceship and turn it into a science fiction story. There is value in taking the classics we live with and changing one facet of the stories.
The final piece of the past you should look at is history itself. Is there an opportunity for you to tell a story against a historic backdrop or is there a historical situation that you can transport to a different place and time to create something new. Joss Whedon’s Firefly is something along those lines. He took a group of Confederate soldiers after the Civil War and changed the war, changed the reasons, and changed the when and where to create a great story with wonderful characters that resonate with the audience. So what historical events from feudal Japan, ancient Mesopotamia, early North America, or other locale in history can you go to find something to light the creative fire? That is between you and your imagination.
These are just some of the things I do when I’m in a dry spell. They normally work for me, and I hope they could work for you. I’ve been in slumps where everything I wrote was horrible and I hated all of it, but later when I’ve come back to it I was able to use it as a part of something else or completely rewrite it and it became a stand alone piece. So look to the past to find your inspiration for the future.