1. Outside. You don’t even have to wait for a nice day. Get out there in the sun or the rain or the snow or the kind of in-between weather that’s not really doing anything interesting or narratively convenient. Go for a walk or sit in the grass or stand on a street corner. Let the world intrude on you. Feel the texture of it on your skin. Taste it in your breath.
And keep an eye out for wandering ideas. Sometimes they’re not where you thought they were, and it’s up to you to go out and find them. With a club, if necessary.
2. Somewhere loud. Eavesdropping is terribly rude, but, in some places, also terribly entertaining. Not malicious eavesdropping, just the picking up of conversational overflow. The coffee shop, the mall, school, the park, anywhere. Pick up a few snippets of conversation. Listen to the way people really talk, the little noises they make in between their words and while they’re waiting for their turn to speak. Write a conversation of your own, using what you hear. Finish that story you only heard the beginning of while waiting in line for a burger.
3. Somewhere quiet. Libraries, empty rooms, secluded glades. Find the silent places. Let the stillness echo until, finally, you can hear your own thoughts more clearly. They might have something interesting to say. Or, hell, just revel in the quiet. There’s a lot of noise and distraction around, but stillness is harder to come by. Enjoy it. You might be surprised by what comes out of it.
4. Somewhere new. No matter how small a town you live in, there are places in it you haven’t seen. Go and find one. Take a look around. What do you think happened here? What story does this place have to tell? Who wrote that graffiti on the wall? Was it the same person who pasted that Bible tract to the door? How about that broken bike helmet with the Anti-Flag sticker? What’s that doing here?
Leave when you’ve got enough questions to be getting on with, and see if you can figure out the answers on your way home.
5. Inside your own head. And not just anywhere. Really dig down and find the dark corners. You want the wrong side of the tracks of your brain, the place where everything is sharper and darker and somehow more important. Take a look at what you find there: old angers with their bright metal blades dulled by rust; rickety looming monuments of insecurity; festering piles of fear and shame.
This is your hidden gold mine.
This is where you’ll drag up the stuff that makes you write things you didn’t know you could. The things that make you feel gut-punched. And you’ll do it because everything here is personal. It hurts.
So, if the ideas just won’t come, then hold your breath and go digging around in that pile until your hands are dirty. I guarantee you’ll find something worth writing about.