In almost every workshop I've ever attended (poetry & creative writing, especially) the first complaint (and the most heard complaint) is the lack of creativity and original ideas.
Creativity and the ability to generate new ideas really works a lot like the old saying 'if you do what you always did, you'll get what you always got.' This is the truth. It's impossible to think of new ideas, draw new parallels, write good descriptions if you're doing the same old thing over and over.
A creative life means a life of variety. Don't eat the same thing everyday. Don't loiter the same cafe day after day. Don't keep reading the same books and listening to the same music and thinking the same thoughts over and over again.
Here is a list of 26 ways to jump-start your imagination. They have worked well for me, and I hope you'll benefit from them as much as I have:
1. Be more spontaneous.
Craving cake at 2am? Go to the store and purchase it. You never know what interesting things (people, situations) you'll run into when you least expect it.
2. Throw logic out the window.
Why, yes, animals can talk. The moon is really a man's face. Pigs do, indeed, fly when no one's looking. Take the stance of 'anything is possible.'
3. Don't concern yourself with what's 'normal.'
Stop copying current fads. Or worrying about being accepted. Some of the most creative and successful artists/authors/poets were way out there for their times.
4. Be genuine to yourself and your ideas.
No idea is silly. Where creativity is concerned, anything can be utilized. Don't censor yourself for fear of ridicule. Better to be totally ridiculous than totally boring!
5. Always be aware.
Pay attention to your surroundings. Remember bits and pieces of conversation between the strangers at the next table. Remember sights, colors, smells, settings. You never know when you can dip into your reservoir of remembered things and have one spark an idea.
6. Allow your inner child to play.
Children are so creative. Our innate tendency, as human beings, is to play and enjoy ourselves. Allow yourself some time just to doodle. If you have kids of your own, get in the floor and play make-believe with them. You'll enjoy yourself, I promise!
7. Expose yourself to the arts.
Visit museums. Go to live music events. Look at digital art online. I've actually seen websites to virtual art museums before. Listen to good music, read good literature.
8. Ask questions.
The more you ask, the more you know. And there's no such thing as a silly question.
9. Try new things often.
It's scientifically proven that new experiments and habits open new neuro-pathways in the brain! And the more you get out of your comfort zone, the easier to string abstract thoughts together and to piece things together that don't 'normally' belong together.
10. Keep a dream journal.
Dreams are creative things! I've written many a poem from something I've dreamed of. Many famous painters have used details and images from dreams when creating their masterpieces.
11. Spend 10 minutes daydreaming.
Not only does this allow you to let your imagination run wild, but also relaxes the mind and gives the brain a 'thinking' break.
12. Keep a notebook of 'ideas' and 'thoughts.'
Dip into your list of ideas and thoughts when you're feeling uninspired. Try to expand upon one or two of them. Turn them into stories or ideas for your creative work.
13. Get out of your comfort zone.
Again...the more you live, the more things you try and places you go and things you see means a large reserve of remembered experiences to draw upon when creating poems, stories, characters, and settings.
14. Listen to new music.
When I was pregnant I read many articles stating that mothers should hold headphones to their bellies to allow their unborn babies to hear classical music because this stimulates the fetus, Studies have shown that children who have heard classical music as babies had higher IQ's than those who didn't. Besides, I've oftentimes been inspired by a song, or song lyrics, to write my own poetry.
15. Read a book or magazine you wouldn't normally purchase.
Again...new learning experiences and information that might allow you to tap into an idea you might not have otherwise.
16. Watch TED talks.
They will encourage and inspire you. They will teach you and inform you. I promise you that!
17. Write lists.
Of favorite colors, textures, songs, lyrics, movies. Then investigate why these things are your 'favorite.' Why do they appeal to you. Work it out in your journal. Allow the colorful things in your world to inspire new creative work.
18. Learn some basic astrology.
There's nothing more inspiring and moving that laying in the grass (or on the couch beside the window) and looking into the stars. Back in the days of the Vikings (and other eras, even modern-day society) people inspected to stars as guidance (think in terms or weather or your own horoscope!).
19. Dabble in the oracle...runes, tarot cards, karma cards, fortune telling...etc.
The art on some of these cards is astounding. Lots of people also use tarot and card-reading as a basis for personal journal writing. If for no other reason, do it because it's fun!
20. Switch up your routine...have coffee in the evening, meditate in the bath.
Remember those neuro-pathways in the brain? Changing your routine can do that too. Besides, who knows what kind of ideas will be born when you're doing something new that you don't usually do.
21. Create a ritual.
Perhaps a prayer, blessing, or candles for energy before you write. These things set the mood and allow you to more easily open your mind.
22. Try your hand at mind mapping.
Mind-mapping makes it easy to relate one idea to another. A lot like brain-storming for a story, mind-mapping will allow you to carry one thought from another...and keep branching until there's no room left on the paper!
23. Try thinking in terms of metaphors.
Waking up feels a lot like _____. My favorite coffee is like _____ to my _____. Really, this is fun and innovative...and really gets you to thinking!
24. Have more intellectual conversations with worldly people.
Smart, worldly (sometimes other-worldly), open-minded, cultured people are the BEST people to converse with. You will learn from them. You will be enlightened, motivated, inspired by them. They will force you to think outside the box. Go find them and make them be your friend. NOW!
25. Browse libraries, bookstores, the Amazon Kindle store. Look at titles and description of books. Check out all the different cover art.
I love looking at titles of books. Writing down a list of the most interesting ones and stringing them together to make a unique poem. I also love cover art (any art at all, really) and oftentimes will take an inspiring piece of art and write to it.
26. Be more open minded.
STOP thinking in terms of concrete, facts, truths. So much of life and the earth and the galaxy still remain a mystery. Life is an amazing mystery to be unsolved, live it as such and this frame of mind will bless your creative projects in bounds.