Catapult Yourself into Inspirationland by Beth Lisick

Oh, hi. How’s it going? Are you bored of yourself yet? Stuck in a rut? Unable to connect with why you thought this was such a good idea in the first place? It’s so easy to go down the insecurity sinkhole when you’re trying to write. I do it often enough and the one thing that can catapult me out of that toxic pit and back into inspirationland is other people’s art. Books, movies, paintings, photographs, music, buildings, theater, even food and podcasts and blogs and TED talks.

Remember: it’s only procrastinating if you never end up getting back to work. So if you’re feeling unexcited and uninspired, here are a few ways to get it back in a matter of minutes.

  1. Open up a favorite book, read a short passage, then close your eyes for a solid minute and think about it. I just picked Mary Gaitskill’s Veronica and found the following sentence: The air smells of gasoline, dirt, and trees; cars farting out of hot iron stomachs; and the fresh BO of nature. Strive to make one of your descriptions more powerful and evocative.
  1. Pick out a song and spend those few minutes listening only to it. Does it bring back a memory or a feeling? Where were you when you first heard it? Who introduced you to the band? Pinpoint a specific lyric or moment you love. Now think about your characters and what music they would listen to. Shinji is only into girl groups of the early ‘80s Tyson works out to the minimalist compositions of Morton Feldman? Fascinating! Remember why you created these interesting people and wanted to tell their stories in the first place.
  1. Whose photography do you love? The detailed landscapes or gorgeous nudes of Edward Weston? The New York post-punk reveries of Nan Goldin? The powerful portraits of Annie Leibovitz? Your best friend’s snaps of abandoned buildings? Imagine a film still from your script, an image that conveys something unique and compelling. Locate that amazing scene in this incredible screenplay you’re writing.
  1. My favorite podcast right now is Comedy Death-Ray hosted by Scott Aukerman. He has a lot of comedians come on and do characters and I am in love with the character of Bob Ducca, done by Seth Morris. Bob is supposed to be Scott’s ex-stepdad (for only six months, ten years ago) and is very fond of lists. Some items on his Christmas list were: Left-handed pill crusher, Dean & Deluca toaster pickles, a set of Night Sweater's quick-drying pajamas, a spinal correcting Hawaiian shirt by Tommy Bahama, a tear-resistant pillowcase, and some Almond Roca. Make a wish list for your protagonist. Think about what they really want and make sure your through-line reflects that.
  1. You sure are writing a lot of dialogue. If it feels like your ass is dragging and nothing’s going anywhere, revisit a scene from one of your favorite movies. Why is it so great? Is it the tension or the excitement or the hilarity? Now watch the scene that directly follows it. You might see some mellowing out or a transition or a slow burn. Maybe that’s where you are. Deal with it. Tell yourself, “The only way out is through.”


Beth Lisick is the author of four books, including the New York Times bestseller Everybody Into the Pool. She is also, in her mid-life and without injectable dermal fillers, starting to do some acting. She appears in Frazer Bradshaw’s debut feature Everything Strange and New, has a bit part in Treatment, opening later this month at the Tribeca Film Festival, and just co-directed and acted in a short called Sinking State.