An Unorthodox Guide to Sparking Your Creative Juices

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This week’s guest post is brought to you by Aidan Reid. Thanks, Aidan!

Inspiration can be found in the strangest of places, striking like a thunderbolt when you least expect it.

I was a self-help junkie when I was growing up. Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer – I listened to them all. I was also manic when it came to writing lists. While I was still a fledgling author with grand ambitions (not much has changed), I read from one such guru that you should carry a small notepad with you, ready to jot down a flash of insight at any moment.

It could be a new novel idea. It could be a clever analogy. It could be peculiar attributes of a character in your head inspired by the guy sitting across from you on the train. Yeah, the one picking his nose. Yeah. That’s him. Don’t stare!

The problem with our memories is that we have inbuilt erasers, unable to hold the information for very long before the practicalities of life soon seep in.

The famous inventor Thomas Edison, found a novel way for inviting more of these fleeting insights. During his frequent naps, he would sit upright and hold a steel ball in his hand. Directly below the ball would be a silver plate. Inevitably when he would drift off to sleep, his grip on the ball would relax and it would clang against the plate and wake him up.

Apart from annoying his long suffering wife with these strange habits, there was a method to the madness. Ideas could be reached when the conscious, critical mind was bypassed – reaching a place where ideas manifest in the subconscious.

I value my sleep FAR too much to consider this option. However, there have been moments where I’ve received flashes which have catapulted my own writing career into new territories.

The inspiration for my debut novel Pathfinders came when I read a book about Lucid Dreaming. Simply stated, LD is the ability to wake up inside your own dreams, and be aware of it. Suddenly the dream world takes on an exciting realism which mirrors your own day-to-day. Some dream pioneers (oneironauts) even suggest that the dream world feels even more colorful and exciting than anything we could even imagine.

I had my first lucid dream at twenty-two, shortly after reading the book, and it scared the hell out of me. So disturbed was I by this frightening vision that I began a decade long process of writing my novel which explored the danger of being sucked permanently into this state and not wanting to return.

Other avenues I’ve used for exploration when it comes to finding new ideas has been reading books across a wide range of genres. I’m working my way through the BBC Big Read Top 100 Books of all Time list. Ordinarily, I’d steer clear of anything to do with Romance, Westerns or Chick Lit, but because they are on the list and I’m determined to complete all the books in my lifetime, I’m being introduced to finer nuances and styles that don’t pigeon-hole me to a certain voice.

I’m also a big fan of getting outside of my comfort zone. I emigrated to Colombia from Ireland almost a year ago. Now 33, I’ve spent probably four years of my adult life traveling (usually solo) across the world. Visiting over fifty countries and interacting with thousands of backpackers en route, the stories I’ve heard will stay with me for life, fodder for new books and adventures still to be written.

A humdrum, corporate citizen for most of my twenties, sometimes the only thrills I could find between travel breaks would be to do something a little bit off the wall – bungees, skydives par for the course. Firing up my creative juices. Whether this unlocks parts of my brain that had perhaps hardened because of the monotony of the daily grind, I’m not sure.

But I’m certain that I couldn’t convincingly write about one of my character’s taking an ancient shamanic medicine in a Peruvian jungle, without having done so myself.

While inspiration can strike us at any stage – in the mall, at work, in bed at night – you have to be prepared to listen and act. Without taking action, there’s little reason for that voice to speak up again.

It could be calling and you don’t even know it.

Can you hear it? What’s it telling you?

AIDAN J. REID is a writer and freelance blogger originally from Cloughmills, Northern Ireland. His debut sci-fi thriller, PATHFINDERS, was released on March 1st 2016. Advance reviewers describe it as ‘Inception’ meets ’28 Days Later’.

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