The most frustrating thing is how I get my inspiration. I rarely have it, but get a ton of it after I drink things like coffee, Monster, etc. Those things tend to stay in my system for a LONG time (I drank a Monster at 9am Sunday, and it was still in effect 12pm the next day) and I usually can’t sleep the night following my consumption. So, I literally have to give up sleep in order to write in a way and with plots that I’m satisfied with. @_@
I’m going to try suggesting a handful of things, most of which work for me, and hopefully they’ll help you.
Adjustment. Change your caffeine intake. I drank so much caffeine in college it no longer works for me. I can drink a cup of coffee and go straight to bed. I pretty much drink it now to prevent withdrawal, which is not really all that healthy. Caffeine has different effects for different people. That said! If caffeine is something you feel you need, experiment with the amount. Monster has a shitload of caffeine. Try tea or chocolate, or maybe cutting your consumption in half? I don’t want to say cut it out completely, because obvious you feel it works (and also that is super hard!), but try experimenting. Maybe there’s an amount or a drink you can take that won’t fuck with your sleep.
A mistake people make is thinking you have to write while on something, and that brilliant writers are always drunk/on some drug/highly caffeinated/name your poison. There are always going to be people like that, but they are far outnumbered by people who don’t need those things. Nobody gets kicked out of the inspiration club for being sober!
Exercise. Getting your blood pumping wakes you up and makes you just as alert as caffeine can. Walks or bike rides are a great way to settle into that plotting mode. If it’s inconvenient or impossible to do either, try doing some exercise inside. You don’t have to get a gym membership or sweat it out to make your body more active and responsive.
That said, exercise is hard for people for many different reasons. A cramped dorm room, bad weather, lack of walking space, and chronic pain, depression, and disabilities can really make this hard. It also works for some people creatively, and doesn’t work for others. It’s all a matter of what you can do, not what you have to do.
Art. Most of my best pieces of writing are inspired by art I’ve found on the internet. Here is a massive list of art blogs you can follow on tumblr. Art is great because regardless of the artist’s intention, you always get your own impression out of it, interpret it very differently and run with it. You don’t have to tell the story of the picture, just what story the picture caused you to think of.
(Sidenote: Please always credit artists. They work just as hard as you do! Here is a great post on how to find credit for a piece of art.)
Music. Your brain is a fantastic machine that reacts to music in wonderful ways. Here’s a list of music blogs you can follow. Pay attention when you listen. How does it make you feel? What would you write that would capture that feeling?
Soundtracks are my mainstay when writing because they are explicitly designed to capture your attention and influence your emotions without distracting you with words. There are tons of really great soundtracks out there, both movies and shows. Make sure you check out the instrumental scores of your favorite movies and shows. My current favorites are the soundtracks of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and this obscure Japanese drama called SP. They’re both really awesome.
Poetry.I am not about to recite Blake at you or anything, but poetry is a great way to elicit feelings and figure out how you would respond to those feelings. Check out Fuck Yeah Poetry for different styles and subjects; it’s not all stuff you were forced to read in school! (If you liked reading them in school, great! But I sure didn’t, and it took me awhile to like poetry afterwards.)
Dreams. I have really fucked up dreams. Really, really fucked up dreams which I guess makes it a good thing that I like to write horror? Dreams have benefits and negatives to your writing, but lots of writers like to keep a dream journal to capture snippets they really like. If you’re too tired to write down a dream you just had and you know you’ll forget it in the morning, try using a voice recorder instead to relate it.
Media. Watch your favorite show. Read your favorite book. Ah, but there’s a catch - you have to do so critically. What works in your favorite movie? What excites you? How do they introduce a character and make you like them? What types of stories are you attracted to? Are those the kind of stories you want to write? Take notes. Make it your writing homework. It does help!
Prompts. Uugh. Uuuuuugh. I hate prompts you guys. I haaaaaate prompts. Every time I read a prompt that tells me to do something, I want to go ‘FUCK YOU’ and throw the book across the room.
I’m including this because prompts do work for some people, but they can also help you when you have no ideas. They can be easy too, like writing about a single word or telling a five-word story. The internet is great for this because there’s tons of prompts out there, completely free.
The main point off all of these suggestions: Find something that activates your brain and stirs your imagination. You can try one or many of these suggestions. You can’t force inspiration, but you can develop strategies that will make it easier for you in the long run. It’s also good to have alternatives, especially when the thing you rely on isn’t good for you in the long run. Good luck!