1. Reread your favorite novels, the ones that once inspired you to be a writer.
One of my favorite books is The Red and the Black by Stendhal, not surprisingly, it makes an appearance in my new novel Treadmill.
2. Rewatch your favorite movies, the ones that made you hope your work would follow suit.
No one can deny that electric feeling of inspiration that sparks up after watching a great movie.
3. Take long walks and concentrate on observing those things around you. Change your focus from inside of yourself to outside.
Never underestimate the power of leaving your writing desk for a quick tango with nature. Nine times out of ten, you’ll return with a fresh palette of ideas and a renewed sense of motivation.
4. See a stage play or musical revival that you once enjoyed on film or on live stage.
My all-time favorite musical and film is My Fair Lady.
5. Don’t frustrate yourself by starting something new until your imagination reveals a new idea for a story.
Never force an artistic endeavor. When the muse comes to visit you, you’ll know it right away.
6. Fantasize sexual activity and take action if possible.
Sex has always been present in great literature. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out, for example, that the Bible is replete with the taboo subject including examples of every conceivable exercise of the venery. Shakespeare was a master at presenting sexual desire, its consequences, and its power impacting his language. For the great Victorians, the fabulous Russians, and the wonderful continental novelists of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, sex was an ever-present life force and its characters indulged in it with great energy and zeal. It was, however, presented in language that would hardly make a spinster blush.
7. Exercise frequently, avoid alcohol or drugs, and avoid any negativity – It leads to depression and locks creativity.
I am a great believer in the benefits of Pilates and do it twice weekly.
8. Read newspapers. Many great novels have come out of newspaper stories.
My third novel, The Henderson Equation, was inspired by The Washington Post’s relentless pursuit of President Richard Nixon, which became the political scandal of the century known today as Watergate. It made the careers of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, and brought lifetime laurels to the publisher of The Washington Post, Katherine Graham, editor at the time, Ben Bradlee, and a host of writers, who have since analyzed, parsed, recounted and fictionalized the episode ad infinitum in hundreds of books and media, including the Academy Award winning film, All the President’s Men.
9. Keep your antenna circling, looking for story ideas.
It is always difficult to describe to people how a story idea enters a novelist’s consciousness. By the time I began to write The War of the Roses I had already published nine novels and my antenna must have been circulating feverishly searching for a new idea until it finally came to me.
10. Listen carefully to conversations. Don’t shut off contacts with friends and acquaintances.
I am always writing a story in my head and I never pass up the chance to listen in on a good conversation (even bad ones). The idea for The War of the Roses came to me at a dinner party in Washington in 1979. One of our female friends was dating a lawyer, who was her guest at the party. At some point, he looked at his watch and announced that he had to get home or his wife would lock him out of the house. When asked why, he said he was in the process of getting a divorce and was living under the same roof and sharing facilities and that part of the agreement was a strict set of rules on coming and goings and the division of living quarters.
The dilemma expressed by this dinner guest might be called the “eureka” moment. The story quickly formed in my mind and, with the exception of a brief conversation with a Judge who was an expert in domestic law, I did no other legal research on the subject of divorce. Oddly, many people have become convinced, including said dinner guest, that somehow I had burrowed into the legal files of their various divorce actions. I cannot tell you how many times, over the years, people have accused me of “stealing their divorces.” I tried countering this accusation by explaining that a novel’s story grows out of a novelist’s imagination and the amalgamation of his or her observations and experiences, but to little avail.
Do you have writing tips? Please share them below!