How Do You Find Inspiration?
Inspiration is not something you either have or you don’t. It’s something you can go out and find for yourself, no matter where you are in your writing journey. One of the greatest myths about writing is that successful authors are brimming over with unique ideas, and when they write, the ideas flow out with almost no effort, needing nothing more than a keyboard to come to life.
But nothing could be further from the truth. Even the most established authors need inspiration, whether it’s for a unique idea or for the motivation to start a new project. Rather than see this as discouraging, see it as a blessing.
When inspiration can strike anywhere or anytime, the idea that you may have to look for it may seem disconcerting, or even overwhelming. But promising seeds of inspiration may be closer than you think. In this post, we’ll give you a variety of strategies to find new and unique ideas for your fiction, as well as ways to become inspired to sit down and write when motivation is lacking.
Writers are notorious for having more ideas than they can handle. But sometimes, the perfect idea eludes you, whether it’s because you want something radically different from your last project or because you can’t think of a good angle for an idea you already have. When those times hit, try one of these approaches to jumpstart your creativity:
Consume other forms of art
Stories exist in every place we look, but art, in particular, has a way of igniting the imagination. Look at paintings or images that correlate with the genre you want to write. Every picture you see can create its own story in your head, whether it’s the starting point of a scene, an attractive setting, or the desire to explore one of the painting’s characters.
Another excellent source of inspiration is music. Songs with lyrics are often short stories in their own right. This means that you, as an author, can take a favorite song and develop it into something uniquely yours. Even single lines can suggest intriguing scenarios.
The great thing about using a painting or song as inspiration is that both exist as more abstract forms than written fiction, with multiple possible interpretations, which means no two authors’ stories would come out alike.
This differs from movies and books since these forms of art already have fully fleshed-out stories. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find inspiration in them. Read and watch outside your usual comfort zones. Seek out different styles and genres and creators from other backgrounds. By looking at the world from different angles, you’ll find new pathways to delve into, new takes on worn-out ideas, and new territory to explore.
Discuss your ideas with friends
Whether your friends are authors or not, everyone has a unique way of looking at the world that’s distinctly different from yours. When your ideas are feeling mundane or uninspired, grab a cup of coffee with a friend and run some of your thoughts by them. See what they shrug off as something they’ve seen a million times before, and what makes their eyes light up as a unique premise.
Or, if you have no ideas at all, pay attention to the places in the conversation where you feel more engaged, and see if there’s potential there for something to explore deeper in your fiction. Your fellow artists may even brainstorm with you from scratch! The ideas born from a fun conversation between creative minds often go places you’d never concoct on your own.
Combine two or three ideas
A single idea is seldom enough to sustain a whole novel, or even a short story. Maybe you’ve come up with a few ideas, but they feel cliché by themselves, or you can’t figure out the plot to go with an intriguing setting or character.
Instead of trying to decide which idea to write first, try putting them together into the same project, even if—or especially if—they’re radically different! The combination of unexpected elements is where the really interesting stories lie. It also makes your story more complex to have the different layers each idea brings with it.
As any writer knows, coming up with fantastic ideas is only one part of inspiration. Equally important is the motivation to put them into words. Putting the work in is what will turn your thoughts from mere daydreams into shareable fiction to be proud of. But how do you bring your ideas into reality when you’re not inspired to write? Do you push off the work and wait until inspiration hits to start your book?
Of course not. If everyone waited for days of perfect inspiration, books would never get finished. Remember: the idea that words always flow effortlessly is a myth. This means, like seeking out your ideas, you need to seek out—or create—the inspiration to write, even on days you’d rather not. Here are a few techniques to get yourself moving:
Clear away all distractions
It’s easy to say you’ll start writing after checking Twitter one last time. Or after you answer your emails. Or once you’re done reading the news. But you only have a finite amount of writing time each day, and every second you spend online is time you’re taking away from yourself. Even if you’ve sat down and tried to write already, popping onto the internet while you’re thinking is taking your attention away from where it needs to stay: on your work.
Turn off your WiFi and put your phone in another room. Once you’re sitting at your desk with nothing else around, you’ll have no choice but to focus on your project. Without your distractions nearby, you’ll quickly find yourself bored if you don’t start writing…and eventually, that’s what you’ll do. And as you get pulled more into the story, you’ll find the struggle of another day’s beginning behind you, and fresh words in your story by the end.
Give yourself a small and manageable goal
Setting overly ambitious objectives is an easy way to get discouraged or anxious, which could lead to never starting at all. You might find yourself daunted by a three-hour writing block or a target of a thousand words. Instead, tell yourself you’ll write for half an hour. Or that you’ll get down two hundred words. Often, a boost to get started is all we need, so once you’ve written for that half-hour or gotten down those two hundred words, the chances are higher that you’ll keep going.
But even if it really is a day where you’re not feeling it, that’s two hundred words further than you were yesterday, and two hundred words closer to the next section that will excite you and put you in the zone another day. And it’s infinitely better than going to bed at night feeling guilty because you didn’t try writing at all.
Write for yourself
One of the main reasons authors have trouble is because they’re overthinking everything they write. They’re wondering whether the plot is working, how others will perceive it, or if they’re starting at the wrong place. This inevitably leads to constant editing and revising, and a complete halt in forward momentum.
When you find yourself freezing or obsessing because of invisible expectations, remind yourself that this draft is for you, and you alone. There’s no reason not to write whatever you want during a first draft. The time will come later for feedback and for deciding what works and what doesn’t, but for now, see where your excitement takes you. No one is going to read this version but you.
No matter what kind of inspiration you’re struggling with, remember why you’re pursuing the dream of writing. You have a passion to tell stories, to share part of your inner self with the world. And there’s nothing more inspiring than that! Using these strategies to find ideas or motivation will help you hone that passion, improve your writing habits, and uncover wells of creativity you didn’t know you had.