Nothing gets me more creative than using a new piece of gear for the first time. Some of my best songs were written within minutes of pushing the “on” button of a newly-acquired instrument or audio gear. Anything will do: drum machines, guitars, pedals and even compressors (I wrote a great tune while trying a new HHB Radius 40). I’m not sure what it is, but I think that new gear brings you outside of your comfort zone and let you ear things you’ve never heard before. Plus, there’s the excitement of having something new.
On the down side, it can get quite expensive. The biggest problem for me is that once the initial “honeymoon” period is over, I have almost no use for the new gear and it quickly finds itself on EBay or Craig’s List. Instead of accumulating, I like to keep as little gear as possible. This allows me to spend more time writing songs and than reading manuals or patching cables. I hate patching cables.
Renting & Borrowing
One solution around that is to rent new gear once in a while for a day or two. You get to try things out without actually having to own anything. You could also persuade a music store to let you bring some gear to try at home, but I would advise not to borrow gear that you have absolutely no intention to buy. This would be kind of deceptive to the music store. Instead, try to borrow from a friend who may have some interesting gear.
Although it doesn’t quite do it for me, I have known some songwriters who found inspiration working on new DAW software and plug-ins. The cool thing with this is that most DAW and plug-in software vendors offer free trial versions for you to download.
Personally, I believe that any gear can be used to kick start the creative process. However, just try to keep you G.A.S (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) in check by never forgetting why you got a piece of gear in the first place: to write more songs.