When it comes to hitting your word count goals, it’s not always easy to find writing inspiration. Life can be hectic, and it can be hard to find time for your writing. That’s why you need to know where to find writing inspiration so you always have it at the ready and can finally finish that manuscript.
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I’ll be real. I’m not always inspired to write. And I’ve been in this writing game long enough to know that in most cases, there is no inspiration.
There’s just your ass in the chair, and your hands on the keyboard.
(I mean, and then there’s the actual typing too.)
For the most part, the muse never shows and inspiration is something left to very aesthetically dedicated Instagram accounts. But that’s okay.
See, because writers write. (That’s why they call them writers.) So, we don’t need that fancy frou-frou inspiration. We’re all grizzled professionals that don’t find writing inspiration–we just write.
But on the off-chance that maybe you do need some inspiration…
Who am I kidding? We all need it. Ever since the spring of 2020, I’ve been struggling to give even the most basic of fucks about writing. That’s why I’m all about taking the time to find writing inspiration, and today, I share it with you.Find Writing Inspiration When You Need It Most Click To Tweet
Where to Find Writing Inspiration
Writing inspiration abounds! You just have to know where to look for it. Here are some of my favorite places to find writing inspiration.
Read good books (and bad ones too).
Sometimes reading classics makes sense. Sometimes, reading serialized smut on your Kindle makes sense too.
No matter what you write, you can’t just read the best of the stuff out there to feel inspiration. If I’m being honest, the classics mostly make me feel nothing. I can’t stand the pacing, and a lot of the stories don’t translate well to a modern era.
That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the work that went into writing them, or that I don’t enjoy them. I’m just saying it’s not always inspiring.
So, read whatever strikes your fancy. It doesn’t have to be anything special. And it definitely doesn’t have to be critically acclaimed. I’ve gotten inspiration from reading LiveJournal accounts, Reddit threads, and lord help me–terrible novels.
Inspiration is weird, and sometimes you get it by reading something terrible, and thinking about what you would’ve done differently.
Unsplash is a collection of mostly royalty-free photos you can use for whatever. (I say mostly because there have been some instances of people stealing photos they don’t own and posting them on Unsplash, so use these photos at your own risk.)
The cool thing is you can search whatever phrase you want, and you’ll get a whole bunch of photos that relate to that search term. This means you can search for the general vibe of your story, and get some awesome images.
There are tons of artsy photos you can download and put into a vision board, or add to Pinterest. I like to print some out and paste them into my planner so I see them regularly.
Oh, and all my Flash Fiction Friday stuff? Those photos came from Unsplash, and some of those stories I came up with the stories just by looking at the images.
Work through The Artist’s Way.
I did this over a year ago, and I truly enjoyed the experience, so much so that I’m thinking of trying again.
If you suspect that your lack of inspiration may have something to do with some art scars you procured early on in life, then The Artist’s Way is for you. And if you want to get more intentional about your creative routines, you’ll enjoy the structure of the program.
Oh, and because you get to do artist dates, it’s a great way to also get to do like 85% I have listed here in addition to working your way through the book.
Set the novel writing mood.
Sometimes you just need to feel like a writer.
I can find writing inspiration by putting on the right music, making some tea, lighting a scented candle, and just letting the vibe take over.
A significant part of this is drowning out distractions and just putting yourself in a headspace where you can get to work.
I know there are some folks who can just sit down and get going, but sometimes, you need the ritual to make it easier for you to drop into the story. If you’re interested, you can read this post on how to set to the novel writing mood.
Listen to an album from start to finish.
One of my favorite ways to find inspiration is to listen to an album full of story songs from start to finish. Don’t put it on shuffle–just listen to it as it was intended.
I love how musicians get to tell stories with words and music, and that generally leads to a pretty cool vibe overall. So, if you’re struggling with a story, find an album with a similar aesthetic or ethos, and just listen.
Plus, you feel really cool and artsy when you have your headphones on as you lay on the couch, just staring up at the ceiling as the music takes you away.
Do something else with your hands.
One of the stupidest things about art is that no matter what you’re working on, you’ll find a block. And for whatever reason, that block is usually overcome while you’re working on a different type of art.
So, draw something. Play with clay. Cook a meal. Paint your nails. Make some friendship bracelets. Do one of those really cool, crafty DIY projects that you see all over social media that they make look so easy but really, it’s nigh impossible.
Whatever you do, give your hands a different project. I don’t know why, but it usually clears your head when you do come back to the writing.Get your heart rate up. Go outside. Change up your routine. How do you find writing inspiration? Click To Tweet
Get your heart rate up.
When I’m working out, my body is moving and doing what it’s supposed to be doing. But my brain is a billion miles away thinking about bits of conversation that I want to put in a story.
This could be because I’m really good at dissociating, or it could be because when your body is doing something, your brain has some space to think. Getting away from the computer for a bit is good, and letting your mind wander while you workout is a great way to build story worlds.
Take a walk. Seriously. If the weather is nice and you can do so safely, taking a walk is a great way to get some fresh air and repair your ability to think through what you’re working on.
It’s a change in scenery and a little workout in one. Plus, sunshine will clear your head and help you get down to business when you sit down to write again.
Change up your routine.
I tried this recently, and wound up writing 20,000 words in a weekend.
Usually, I work out first thing in the morning. But instead, I decided to take my laptop to the couch, light a fire in the fireplace, and write first thing while sipping some coffee.
I think I like the change.
But this is all to say that sometimes, your routine is working, but it could be better. So change the way you do things. It will help you get out of stagnant habits, and help you shift where your energy is going.
Yes, building routines is tough, but it’s worth it. And if you find the routine you’ve built isn’t serving you or your current goals, you should definitely switch it up.
And I have this post on good writing routines if you need some inspiration.
Tackle your Netflix list.
As a writer, I get to use my escapist tendencies to my advantage, and you should too.
I have a tendency to work and not recharge. That means I create way more than I consume, and sometimes you need to consume some stuff so your idea generator has some raw materials to work with.
I’m not saying you should binge Netflix all day, every single day for a week. But maybe you need to watch a few episodes. I recommend something outside the genre you’re writing in, and something that has really good reviews.
If you choose to watch a movie instead, make it something you’ve never seen before, or something you haven’t seen in years.
The idea here is to get some fresh fuel for your brain. So make it something you don’t already have in your head.
Clean your house.
I don’t know why, but this works.
A dirty home doesn’t make you a bad person, and you’re not terrible for having clutter. But if you clear it all away, it’s weird how much easier that will make writing.
It’s like all the visual noise is gone, and that makes it easier for you to work.
Stare out the window.
I had a professor in college who said that sometimes writing means staring out the window.
And yes, I agree. Sure, there is also the part of writing where you put words on the page. And there’s the part of writing where you do the outlining and editing.
But sometimes, you just need to stare out a window and let your imagination go. Ignore all those teachers that called you a dreamer or a silly heart. They all suck and you are a golden unicorn, dammit.
So stare out that window and let your mind wander. You may not figure out anything for the project your working on, but you will feel a lot better when you’re done.
Bonus: This is kind of like really cheap EMDR therapy.
Dress the part.
So, this may be suspect advice. But when I was in college and had to write poems for my poetry writing class, I made an effort to dress like a poet.
We’re talking fancy scarves and dark lipstick and hats. Did I put these things on over my pajamas?
Yes. Yes I did.
But there’s something about adding pieces to what you’re wearing to make you feel more like you belong doing what you’re doing.Pro tip: Dress like a poet. Click To Tweet
Caffeinate with reckless abandon.
Please only follow this piece of advice if your body can handle this sort of thing.
I like to start the day with coffee. And if I have a particularly tough project I’m working on with a looming deadline, I like to start the day with 4-6 cups of coffee.
This does not make my body feel good. But it does make me feel capable of writing. And if you’ve ever had half a pot of coffee and cranked out 5,000 words in an hour, you know how cool this feels in the moment.
(And how terrible it feels as you come down.)
Set a deadline.
So, depending on your personal brain chemicals, this will either work, or it will make it impossible for you write.
For me, having a looming deadline is a surefire way to get words on the page. In fact, I need that adrenaline rush of the deadline to get moving.
Here’s the thing with a deadline: If you’re the type of person who doesn’t break promises to yourself, set deadlines in your planner and move on. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t break promises to others, make sure your critique partners know the deadline you’ve set, and have them bug you until they get it.
But if the idea of a looming deadline makes you freeze and you can’t get words out, definitely don’t use this method.
Let your writing be fun.
I can get really caught up in the work I have to do with my writing. I do a ton of client work, and a lot of stuff that I do for me has to meet certain caveats to do what I want it to do. (Talking about SEO, here.)
But sometimes, I just like to take a notebook and write silly stuff that’s in my head. It starts as a brain dump, and then turns into some really weird, lyrical storytelling.
This will never see the light of day, but it’s something I enjoy doing, and having some fun with writing is a great way to get the creative juices flowing.
Talk with inspiring people.
I love chatting with other writers about their process. Hell. I’ll talk with any artist about how they do what they do.
Admittedly, this isn’t always possible. So, sometimes I’ll pull up interviews on YouTube, or watch a MasterClass. Then I can listen to people talk about how they do what they do.
Sure, it’s one-sided, but if I’m being honest, I’m not very good at conversation, so this works for me.
Take a class.
In the pre-pandemic days, I was known to take a class at the local vo-tech. They have tons of adult education classes. From photography to sewing to music to cooking classes, there was always something fun to learn.
So if you’re looking for a way to find writing inspiration, I think it’s a good idea to take a class in something that interests you. What you learn probably won’t translate directly into a new story, but who knows? You may use some elements of what you just learned in your next project.
Straight up steal.
Take a cue from our fan fiction friends. They steal characters from other writer’s works, and make new stuff. Now, they can’t make money doing this unless they edit their stuff and file the serial numbers off to make it not copyright infringement.
But they do write prolifically. And sometimes, you just need to crank out a bunch of words to remind yourself you can, and that’s some kind of inspiration for sure.
Sometimes you need to play in someone else’s sandbox in order to get your brain to work.Sometimes you need to play in someone else's sandbox in order to get your brain to work. Click To Tweet
How to Collect Your Writing Inspiration
Everyone is different, but once you find writing inspiration, you need to collect it in a few places that make sense to you.
For me, I have my old iPod with the track wheel (how vintage!) sitting on my desk. I keep it next to a candle I like to light to help me focus, and there’s definitely an electric kettle and an assortment of teas in my office. All of this is there so I have access to inspiring stuff at the ready.
So, you can easily set up a shrine to writing on your desk so you have all the things you need in order to write.
But you can also keep your fun writing and fan fiction in a notebook. Having notebooks is a pre-requisite for being a writer, and I have a ton that are full of random quotes and little ideas, pasted-in photos, and just general chaos.
And if you want some visual inspiration right by your computer, may I suggest a vision board hanging on the wall? It’s a great way to give yourself something to look at while you work, and the images will be reminders of inspiring things. But if you want to keep your vision board digital, you can always make a desktop background using Canva, or create Pinterest boards full of things you like.
How Do You Find Writing Inspiration?
What do you do to get the creative juices flowing? How do you make time for activities that inspire you? Was there a recent movie that made you really want to write? I’d love to hear how you find and cultivate inspiration.