Look Elsewhere for Inspiration.
Writing science-fiction is a lot of fun. Writing fantasy is a lot of fun. Writing superhero stories is a lot of fun. I love it all. The more my imagination has to work, the more worlds and races and cultures I have to create, the happier I am. I eat up as much sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero material as I can get my hands on. The more the better. I always feel inspired after a good story, and can’t wait to get back to work.
But not everything I consume is science fiction, fantasy, and superheroes. If that were all I read, I would be limiting myself as a creator of those very same genres. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again and again until the day I croak… it is very, very, VERY important to look elsewhere for inspiration.
The legendary Hayao Miyazaki famously said that modern anime creators are making anime for anime fans. They’re in a loop of self-satisfaction, only catering to the styles and tropes that fans of the genre enjoy. They’re making anime instead of making stories. I have nothing against anime, personally, but I agree with Miyazaki. A good story is more important than a good example of whatever genre you’re creating.
Get out of your genre. Step beyond your comfort zone. Read books and comics that you usually wouldn’t consider. Watch movies that have nothing to do with magic, superpowers, or spaceships. You’ll not only be surprised by what you find yourself enjoying, you’ll find yourself inspired in unexpected ways. All of it will give you things to bring back to your genre, strengthening your characters and the versatility of your style.
I’m practicing this exercise right now. The book I’m currently reading isn’t science fiction, fantasy, or superhero-related. It’s The Upanishads, a collection of ancient wisdom texts from anonymous Hindu sages. I am finding myself inspired by its poetry, and its message of the transcendent nature of the Self. I can feel myself storing away elements of these ancient passages for use in future works. I’m not sure where I’ll be putting this inspiration, but it’s an unexpected gem.
Explore other genres. Find your own unexpected gems. Find what glitters for you in ways you didn’t think would enchant you. Step off your beaten path into the unexplored and see what you find. I guarantee you’ll surprise yourself, one way or another, and that experience will only make you stronger.