How to Find Inspiration
A Lesson by Imelda Blackheart
It's exactly like the title says. It is one of my longer lessons, but it goes over many different techniques that can help you find inspiration whenever you're not stuck in the middle of the story, but without a single word on the page.
recently read in someone’s biography that they were having some trouble
actually getting inspiration to begin with. Now, know that although this
inspired me to write this lesson, I realize that many other people appear to be
having the same problem. Once upon a time, that used to be me. That was before
I realized that there are TONS of different ways to dispel this… well, I
suppose that it’s just a variation of writer’s block. You aren’t stopped in the
middle of writing; you’re stopped before you even start writing, which might
even be worse.
have no fear, for Imelda is here! I will rescue you fair writers from the jaws
of the ghastly beast of the writer’s block abyss, and save your writing
forever! Ok, I’m not that good. But some of these suggestions just might be
able to help you, and since I believe that this is going to be the only lesson
I write that involves beginning inspirations, it will most likely be
significantly longer than any of my previous lessons. Ah, I sense you are
hesitating. You are debating whether or not to continue reading. You doubt me!
Alas, I am sorry to say that I cannot force you to read this entire work. I hereby
bestow upon you the option of skipping around wherever you need to! There. I
however, it is time to begin your training! Pull out your notebooks and prepare
to take, well, notes! Very important
notes! Notes that could affect your entire future! These notes… ah, who am I
kidding. Just go ahead and read on.
have just decided that I will go in no particular order, so… yeah. Sorry about
I am still a child at heart (and will remain forevermore so), I have decided
that I will begin with one of my favorite suggestions, which is to play a game
that involves strategy to stimulate your brain. These types of games can
include chess or checkers, or any other strategy game that you could think of.
But one of the best games to play doesn’t involve a lot of strategy, and I have
dubbed it the, “Choose a Word Quickly and Connect it to Another Word” game,
also referred to as the CWQCAW game. An example (that I’m making off the top of
my head) is that blue may lead to pond, which leads to frogs, which leads to
frog hunting, which leads to rednecks, which leads to why they are hunting
frogs, and it can just go on and on until you decide to stop.
I can gather my story from that idea, some of which I didn’t put down on this.
Maybe those rednecks are actually very rich rednecks, but they were trying to
teach their sons how to hunt frogs, but they had refused to teach the girl, so
the girl snuck along. The girl was then taken by the spirit of the swamp that
they were hunting in, and the redneck parents reveal that it was because they
knew about the spirit that they didn’t want the daughter to go into the forest.
This story then turns into a quest to rescue the girl by following one of the
boy’s instincts, which were given to him by a dying frog.
so maybe that isn’t exactly a novel-worthy idea. But I did all of that just by thinking of one simple word and letting it wander
around my mind. Do you see what I’m trying to say?
now that we’ve finished up with that one, let’s move onto something different.
People. There is so much inspiration to be gathered from the people who seem so
boring when you aren’t paying attention to them, but many authors ignore that
almost always present source of ideas. There isn’t just one way to find
inspiration from the people around you. In fact, there are many ways. And yes,
I am going to name all of them (at least I’ll name the ones I can think of at
of my favorite activities when I’m gathering inspiration from people is what I
like to call “People Watching.” For best results, go to a busy public place
where you have many varieties of people to choose from. These people will do
many things; they can amuse you, fascinate you, and most importantly, inspire
you. To some authors, and you may find yourself as one of them sometime in the
future, that claim that there is nothing more inspiring than humanity.
you are participating in the act of people watching, you can have fun imagining
a story about a random person’s life based on their appearance (in this case
you can judge a book by its cover, or maybe the cover is just that- a cover),
their attitude, or maybe just whatever they are doing at the time. If someone
interests you enough, you have the option of following them, but I must warn
you that the results will vary depending on what type of person you follow. In
general, I wouldn’t recommend this unless you are VERY deeply intrigued by this
person. So intrigued, in fact, that you couldn’t live without knowing what happened
to them in the five minutes you didn’t see them.
thing that is fun to do is overhear other people’s conversations. Whether it be
at a park, a mall, or just your favorite coffee shop, if you’re anywhere public
you have the ability to eavesdrop on people. Now, don’t do so in a gross way or
anything, but you can just keep quiet and listen. I’m not sure about you, but I
love hearing other people’s conversations. It isn’t always intentional-
sometimes, you just can’t help but overhear people. If you happen to overhear a
snippet of interesting dialogue, just jot it down as soon as possible. If can
serve as inspiration or just a model in your later writing.
Speaking of jotting
things down as soon as possible, this reminds me how important it is to have
what I affectionately call my “Writer Writing World,” (there is a back story behind that, but it’s
too long to explain right now), but you might call it a writing journal. I
highly recommend this for any author. Know that it doesn’t have to be fancy,
and that you aren’t required to write in it every day. That would be really
boring, and if you’re like me, you would forget or just not have enough time.
Just write down certain thoughts, inspirations, quotes, or snippets of good
writing you find. You might also include your pieces of dialogue you think of,
or just new characters or plot ideas. You can go back to this journal when you
find yourself in need of inspiration or ideas. Remember, it doesn’t have to be
anything fancy; a plain notebook will do, but a nice journal can be motivating.
(Kind of hard to explain why; you just have to experience it for yourself).
but maybe you don’t want to have to carry a journal with you, or maybe you
think that the ideas might come too quickly and you wouldn’t get them all
written down in time before they vanished. It’s alright; I understand. I think
that most of you have a phone, am I right? Many of these phones have some type
of place where you can record anything (The iPhone, if I’m thinking correctly,
has a Voice Memos app that comes with the phone), and, if your phone doesn’t,
you might be able to get an app that does. The best app that I have found for
this is Soundcloud, but just make sure that you choose not to publish it so
everyone else can see it. But if you don’t have a phone, or you don’t have the
option of a recording app, you can always go and purchase a small voice
recorder, which you can buy brand new for $30-$500. If you don’t want to spend
that much money but still want one, I would suggest getting one that is used.
Unfortunately, I do not know of any good places to purchase them online, so you
will have to find those for yourself.
all of these things may seem a little too difficult or time consuming. Maybe
you’re the person thinking, “People watching, playing games; it just takes up
too much time!” Maybe it does. So, to those of who are thinking that right now,
I have a few simpler solutions that you can do on your own without taking up
too much time.
know you’ve probably heard this before, but one of the best ways to get unstuck
if you’re uninspired is just free writing. Just start writing. Anything will
do. It doesn’t really matter, as long as you keep writing. Remember not to
edit, don’t pause, and don’t even give yourself a moment to think. Just write
and let it flow. You will, most likely, end up with a load of garbage, but
it’ll help you get out of your write, and you might just find yourself getting
some really good stuff out of all of that garbage. If you just need something
to write about, try some of these.
have brought to your attention two websites (I’ll admit, technology can have its
perks) that might just help you out. This first one just has a bunch of silly
prompts for writing, and they may not seem like “your style”. But that’s the
point. Get out there and just write about things that you never paused to
consider before. This website is
the name says it all, am I right? On this next website, just click on
whatever interests you (they will be the words in blue) and just start reading.
understand what I mean when you visit http://grammar.about.com/od/topicsuggestions/a/causeff07topics.htm for your writing inspiration. It has quite a
few good ideas, but I don’t suggest reading them all at once, seeing as how
there are four hundred of them on there.
I sincerely hope these websites help you!
just a simple thing like breaking your normal routines can inspire you. You
just need to get out of your rut and see new things from a different
perspective. Maybe you always take one route to work. In that case, just try a
couple others! If you usually just get up, get ready for work, and leave, you
might consider trying exercising in the morning or just watching the sunrise.
If you fit into that crowd of a lot of stereotypical Americans and usually
watch TV at the end of your day, try writing (doesn’t matter what you write) or
reading (doesn’t matter what you read)! Shaking things up might just let you
experience new things and feelings that you either haven’t felt before or
haven’t felt in a very long time.
Speaking of TV,
there are a few unnatural ways to gather inspiration that I would like to share
with you. The first of these is movies. Haven’t you ever been watching a movie,
and the main character says something really witty or just plain awesome that
makes you think, “Hey, that would be a great thing to put in my story!” or “I
have to jot that down in my journal!” There are many times in movies when the
screenwriters to produce the most captivating dialog, while there are other
times that I may become inspired by the beauty of the landscape that has been
captured on film, the incredible camera work, or maybe just the way that a face
is framed by the camera.
But what good movie
doesn’t have awe inspiring music? Not the music that makes you want to lie down
in a corner and put your hands over your bleeding ears (cough cough, Justin
Bieber, cough cough), but that music that makes gives you goose bumps and gets your
hairs standing on end (in a good way). Along the same lines as movies, it can
be inspirational to play great music, from Mozart to Beethoven and from the
Beatles to Toby Mac. If you play it in the background as you write, simply
allow it to fill you up. You can use music that you have purchased, but you can
also go to YouTube and look up something along the lines of, “One Hour Epic
Music Mix” or whatever else you can think of. A good one that I’m listening to
right now as I write is “2 Hour - Epic Music Collection Mix”, but there are
many other good music mixes out there.
you might not find this suggestion in a lot of other places, but I often times
find inspiration by looking at pictures. Granted, they aren’t usually realistic
pictures, but they can inspire a scene in my novel, or just spark the beginning
of a fantastic freewrite. Many times, I find these pictures on, no joke, an app
on my phone for wallpapers. Most have the option where you can look through
different types of pictures (animals, anime, places, nature, etc.) and find any
type of picture that you’re looking for. Many of my greatest writer’s blocks
have been solved by looking at these pictures. If you can’t find or don’t have
these types of apps available to you, I’m sure that you could always look
something up on Google images, but you’ll have to be a little more specific so
that you don’t end up with something that you weren’t looking for.
just one more thing for this topic. I feel that it’s time we discuss
newspapers. I used to want to be a newspaper reporter (I’m not sure about being
a newspaper editor), and whenever those dreams were quickly crushed, I became
coldhearted to all newspapers. At that point and sometimes even now, I find
myself thinking that the news just seems like an endless cycle of the same
thing over and over again. However, for those of us who know where to look, you
can find stories that actually interest you (shocking, I know) that are
inspiring. Many of these stories of unexpected heroes, or people who triumphed
over adversity. Or maybe they didn’t. These types of stories, or whatever types
of stories inspire you, aren’t found very often (not to mention that it takes a
lot of patience to find them in the first place), whenever you do find them, you
will feel your soul soar to new heights. Okay, maybe it isn’t that cool, but
the newspaper can help you.
this next one is one that I haven’t ever tried myself because I knew I wouldn’t
be able to concentrate long enough to achieve the overall goal. Since I have
never tried this myself, I will borrow the words of a popular website (the name
of which I, again, cannot remember) to describe this process, but I will make
only a few minor modifications to any errors I find.
people call this the Toe Dipping Process (I’m not sure why this is, but maybe
you will) and what you’re about to do is sit perfectly still and observe
yourself. It is sometimes called meditation, but in this case, I like to call
it idea generation. This is supposed to calm you down to give the ideas that
are hiding at the back of your mind and give them some room to make themselves
heard. What this site wants you do is set an intention, or a goal, if you so
example, the author of the article I stole, I mean, borrowed words from used
this method to write an article. They already knew the headline and topic, but
their intention was just to clear their mind and get the content flowing. So
really, it doesn’t have to be a very specific goal. I don’t even think that you
even really need a goal.
author sits cross-legged on the coach, but assures the readers that you can do
this anywhere, although they suggest making sure it’s a comfortable place and
position. Take a few deep breaths to get started, and then begin focusing on
the breath going in and out (would someone play the weird monk music right
now?) According to the author, you can
also focus on your body. They like to vary between feeling their whole body and
breath. They also state that, “When I feel my whole body, I can literally feel
the energy in my body come alive.” (Not trying to throw scissors at their
balloon, but isn’t energy always alive? Isn’t that what makes it energy? Never
mind. Let’s move on.)
you first start doing this, your brain will be a radio that bringing in tons of
different signals (thoughts) and you’ll find it very difficult to ignore them.
Here are just a few examples…
(: This is ridiculous. Why am I doing this
(: What do I want for dinner? Hm….
(: Have I fed the dog yet?
(: Crap, I have to pay the bills this Friday.
(: My arm itches.
(: This isn’t helping me at all. Hello, ideas?
When this happens, just observe
the thoughts without concentrating on them. This will, for most people, become
easier and easier with time. When you first begin you may feel resistance,
because if you’ve never done this before, you probably have a few lingering
emotions and tensions having a party inside your body. As soon as you shift
your awareness on them, they disappear.
this didn’t work at all for me, I had a fellow author (and very good friend)
try it for ten minutes. Afterwards, my friend said that her brain felt clear
and prepared to write, when before she hadn’t felt like writing at all.
think you can remember all of that? Here is the five step process summarized.
Quietude. Find a place where you know you won’t be disturbed. This doesn’t work
for me at all if I know that anyone can come into the room at any time, so make
sure you find a place where you can relax.
Intention. Set your intention or goal. It could be anything. Brainstorming a
topic, clearing something you’ve been stuck on, or even feeling out what steps
you should take next in your life. This process is about tapping into your
Breathe. Once your intention is set, sit down in any way you like, and close
your eyes. On a chair, cross-legged or lotus, it doesn’t matter, as long as you
are comfortable. Start with a few deep breaths, and then put all of your focus
on your breath.
Observe. When thoughts and feelings start arising, just observe and accept them
as they are. You will get caught up in them from time to time. When that
happens, bring your focus back to your breath and keep going.
Write. Once you’ve done this for a few minutes, you will feel a sense of calm
and clarity. Open your eyes, keep breathing, and start writing. If nothing
happens, I usually close my eyes and go back to breathing. You will know when
you’ve done this enough, because you will feel a sense of calm, peace and joy.
Congratulations! You are just two
more suggestions away from finishing this astonishingly long lesson! Let’s
quickly move on and get this all over with. One of my last suggestions to you
would be to browse quotations, either in books or (and I know that most of you
will choose this option) on the internet (Google can be a great help in this
situation). People repeat and pass
around quotations for a reason, you know. They can be memorable, witty, or
insightful; they’re everything good writing is supposed to be. Why not let them
inspire them? That’s what they’re supposed to do, you know. I haven’t ever been
to this, but many people have recommended a website that, if I’m remembering
correctly, is called www.quotationspage.com . Apparently, you can
browse through millions of great quotes. Just let one of them spark an exciting
new freewrite. Or maybe they could start something even bigger.
If you are enjoying this article,
I apologize, but now our time comes to an end. If you are just trying to get
through this without your eyes falling out due to how terrible this is, you may
be celebrating. Either way, this is my last technique for finding inspiration.
What I want you to do is find your joy. Maybe you’re just tired, but a lot of
the times we authors beat ourselves up when our work doesn’t measure up to our
standards. That’s a huge mistake, because the writers who actually make it in
the publishing world are the stereotypical mad geniuses whose careers are a
flash of brilliance, followed by an untimely death. Most of the authors that we
know and love are just normal people who take joy from the things they write
and write as much as possible.
now it’s easy to forget the importance of that joy and, in my opinion, that’s
the biggest reason we have a tough time inspiring ourselves to write. We’re
trying to trick ourselves into doing something that we hate, and we need to
stop, because here’s the thing- the sooner you allow yourself to have fun with
your writing, the easier you’ll find it is to just sit down and write. It will
give you new energy, and you’ll find yourself actually wanting to do it.
next you’re stuck, actually find something to write about that actually makes
you smile. Not something that makes you just think about smiling or do that
little puff of air through your nose when you think something is funny, but not
funny enough to laugh, but that actually makes you preform the physical act of
smiling. Find something to write about that gives you a buzz and sends those
tingles down your spine that gives you goose bumps and sets your hair on end in
the best of ways. Find something to write about that touches you so deeply, you
may even find tears of joy running down your face while you type.
joy, my friends, is what writing is really about. It should not just be a gift
to us, but to our readers. Make them feel the same thing you were feeling as
you were writing whatever it may be; poem, story, or anything else your heart
could desire. Enjoy your gift. It may not last forever.
The undisputed leader of the world,
Added on December 17, 2012
Last Updated on December 17, 2012
Beyond enjoying writing like everyone else on this site, I really don't know what else to tell you. :D