Where does inspiration come from? Many imagine it as that lightening bolt of clarity that just happens. This is what i thought for many years and my art, and my writing suffered. I sat around waiting for a Muse to bless me with an idea. And nothing happened. Thinking my creative energy was broken, I laid down my pen and my brushes.
What I've learned over the years is that inspiration is a muscle that must be worked regularly. Tools that strengthen inspiration include prompts, research, consistency, and exploration.
I joined a writing group that has a monthly prompt. It forced me to think of a story around a single word every month. It forced me to think about inspiration from a different angle.
Every month, I would research the word. Etymology, obscure definitions, songs with the word on the title, antonyms, synonyms- anything related to the word. Then I would have a stream of consciousness writing session and let all my new information pour out. It usually resulted in a kernel of a story idea.
Research can fall into several categories. Google and Wikipedia, library databases, and visiting related points of interest. For instance, if you want to write a historical romance set in your hometown, you might start with a visit to your township webpage and then swing through any related wiki articles. Both should cite sources of information. Your local library may contain some of the books or links to databases that relate. You can then plan a visit to the historical society or museum. This should give you enough information to develop characters or form a crucial plot point.
Years ago my mom picked up a copy of The Artist's Way. They recommend writing three pages every morning- about anything. Just free flow writing, almost like a meditation. It differs from stream of consciousness in that it's not as loose; it's more akin to journaling. For my mom, it evolved into daily poetry or color pencil sketches and she still does it.
If you don't want to commit to writing when you first wake up, then daily journal entries or a daily prompt and word count may be the way to go. Daily writing is the key, so find what works for you.
Keeping a journal regularly keeps you in close contact with your thoughts. The best thing about journaling is that there's no wrong way to do it. It can be letters to yourself, notes, observations, eavesdropped conversations, sketches, collages. Some people carry a journal with them, others sit for a few minutes each day. It's not meant to be seen by others, so whatever you do is a tangible part of your mind. I do recommend pencil and paper over technology, because flipping through old journals is also a great source of inspiration.
I know several artists and authors that turn to Pinterest for inspiration. This is especially useful if you only have a vague theme, such as a Viking werewolf dystopian thriller. You might pin Viking tattoos and symbols, werewolf art and dystopian landscapes. The visual aspect of Pinterest can be very stimulating.
Take a day trip to local points of interest. Walk in the woods. Head to a museum. Sit in a city park and people watch. Change your scenery.
Just getting out of your normal routine and environment can jump start creativity.
Read fiction, non fiction, biographies, instruction manuals. Just read. Dedicate a little bit of time every day to feed your brain. Just like it needs regular exercise, it needs fuel. Binge on a trashy romance series or delve into a complicated science treatise. It doesn't matter what you read, just read.
Inspiration can come from any source, but it needs to be sought. The Muses give their gifts only to those deemed worthy, and they judge worth by commitment and hard work. This list is not an exhaustive catalogue of inspirational references. Find your own, combine them, try them. But don't wait for magic. Make your own.