Inspiration comes in so many forms. Sometimes it strikes when you least expect, in a way that you never would've guessed.
For me, I have several tried and true methods of inspiration. Listening to music is a primary one. Sometimes it will come as a feeling I get, inspired by some great lyrics combined with an awesome melody. Other times, a song will convey a story that will get my wheels turning and I'll wonder how it ends or how it could've gone differently. Sometimes I'll allow myself to zone out in the car and just listen. That's usually when the ideas come.
I am also an avid lover of dance. My favorite genres are contemporary and ballet. One of my short stories, The Water's Edge, was inspired by a contemporary dance performed on So You Think You Can Dance. Not only was the choreography beautiful, but I felt very personally connected to the theme. I can't reveal the routine, as my short story has a twist that would be ruined if I did so. However, it's happened more than once that the movements of a particular routine or the story the dancers convey inspired something in me that I wanted to explore through a story of my own.
And of course, there's the obvious muse that every writer succumbs to whether they like it or not, though I suspect that few actually reveal. I'm inspired by my personal life. Sometimes things happen in our lives that just don't make sense and as writers we feel compelled to analyze them in a way that we can understand. At times, it's easier in writing than in life to wrap up a problem in a little bow and round it out with a nice, satisfying resolution. I can only speak for myself, but I believe that these stories are usually the ones closest to our hearts and I think as a reader, you can almost tell when this is the case.
The tricky thing about inspiration is that you can't summon it. You can't say, "Okay I'm ready to write, let me go get some inspiration and I'll start outlining tomorrow." It strikes when you least expect it, whether you're ready or not. Sometimes I'll be in the middle of a story and I'll feel it pulling at me to pay attention. I'll swat it away and tell it to wait its turn; I'll get to it once I'm finished. Inevitably, I always take a break to write it down, afraid that it will drift away and get lost somewhere. Generally, the ideas that refuse to be ignored turn out to be the best ones.
Does anyone else have tried and true inspiration tactics? What works for you? Let me know in the comments!