I met at a guy a couple of years ago at my day (or grave) job who likes to write and who was working on a novel. Naturally, this set us up to be good friends. Since we both worked graveyard shifts, we were both in need of methods to keep us awake. So we started playing instant messenger games. Kind of like "tag" with words.
He'd IM me a phrase, and I'd have to twist it to mean something else. He'd IM me the word "question" and I'd come up with an off the wall answer to which he would have to respond with the question that could lead to that answer.
These games were great for flexing creative muscles. He no longer works for my company but we still play word games on line. It keeps our creativity sharpened.
I mention this because I think it's important to respect those useful, albeit odd, ways of honing your own creativity.
Sometimes when I look inside myself to find creativity, I find nothing staring back at me. At those times I know it's time to dip my bucket into the creative well and fill it to overflowing.
Some methods I use--aside from my online word tag--are:
Art Galleries- It's amazing what kinds of stories come from staring at pictures. A couple of my most inventive novels started with a picture and ended in 80,000 plus words.
Online writer groups- Oddly enough, I've found most online writing groups to consist of very little talk about actual writing and a whole lot of "chat." But writers chat in a way that leads to inspiration. We can't help but view everything in a story format and even our chit chats create new avenues of expression.
Music- Give me symphony or give me death. Actually, I delve into all kinds of music depending on the mood. I have CD's from every music genre and use them as needed.
Discover Magazine and National Geographic- If you're having a hard time discovering anything new, go to those who are willing to make your discoveries for you. The world is an interesting place . . . learn about it.
The newspaper- I'm actually grounded from the newspaper. I tend to internalize bad news and carry it around with me long after it's considered yesterday's news. But a lot of people I know get ideas for new stories based on what's really happening out there today.
The Mall- sit in the foodcourt and eavesdrop. People do and say the quirkiest things. Go have a listen.
Writer's Digest- They have some great writing prompts, kind of like my IM tag. Writing prompts send your mind in directions you'd never take on your own.
Blogs- it's true. The blogging world is a creative well. So much can be found there: motivation, commiseration, nuts and bolts, ideas, life, language, humanity . . . and if nothing else, our writing should reflect the humanity that we are.
Sometimes I clean closets and drawers when I need to fill my well. It sounds lame, but I'm willing to bet my next contract that I'm not alone in obsessive housekeeping being used as a tool for creative needs.
If you look inside yourself and find nothing staring back at you, go get your bucket and lower into whatever well that will allow you to bring that bucket up full again. And whatever that well may be--make sure to respect it so it's available for the next time.