Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ten Ways to Grab Writing Inspiration

Unless you just started writing five minutes ago, you know what it’s like to lose inspiration. There are tons of reasons this can happen. Good news, though! There are tons of ways to get that inspiration back.

The most important thing to remember is that you are not controlled by inspiration. Sure, feelings of inspiration come and go, and we don’t have control over that. But those are just feelings. The secret sauce is that you control inspiration. It’s in your fingertips when you type without abandon. It’s in your heart and your passions and dreams. It’s in that awkward high school memory. Open your eyes and watch the world around you. What do you have to say about it all?

But sometimes it’s a little harder than that to get myself going, so I have a whole arsenal of ways I reach out and grab inspiration.

1. Remember what made you fall in love with your idea in the first place. Take that idea out for dinner. Whisper sweet nothings to it. Light some candles. And then maybe stop there so it doesn't get weird...

2. Keep an updated Brag Book. This book is a place for boastful words about YOU. Yeah, okay, you’re humble and your favorite food is humble pie. No one will see it but you! And if you want, you can put a disclaimer that says, “I promise I’m not as full of myself as I seem.”

Every writer has highs and lows. The lows make us want to give up some days. You’re not a perfect writer? So what! Raise of hands, who is? JK Rowling, we see you. You can put your hand down now. When you feel like you suck, open your Brag Book and BAM. Proof you don’t.

3. Read about writing. Oh, look, you’re doing it now! It never fails that when I read tips from other writers, it gets me fired up. It’s just something about learning (or being reminded of what we already know) that lights the fire of a book nerd. Yay, learning!

4. Set measurable and attainable goals, both big and small. When I meet small goals, it fuels me and takes me one step closer to meeting the bigger goals.

An example of a goal that won’t fuel you: “I want to get super rich from my multi-book deal!”

Why is that no good? Because there’s no check box next to “super rich”. Who says what “super rich is”? JK Rowling, put your hand down.

A better example: “I will work on this book until I land an agent or until I reach 300 rejections.”

That’s better because you either will land an agent or you will get that three hundredth rejection letter, and you’ll know you accomplished what you set out to do.

5. Share your work. You can do this all sorts of ways! Beta readers, critique partners, public readings, querying, etc. Feedback and rejections ignite my passion for my work like nothing else. When I know what I need to work on, I have something to work on. Sounds simple. But if you never share, you might reach that point where you think your work is perfect, and you become stagnant. No matter where you are, please don’t become stagnant.

PS. Sharing is scary. Waiting is nerve-wracking. And feedback won't always be sunshine and roses.

6. People-watch. Go outside and sit on a bench. Or set up in a coffee shop and pretend you’re not eavesdropping. Listen to what people talk about. Watch the way they interact. What do they wear? Why do you think that is? Imagine their background. Play with thoughts of their future. People are interesting.

7. Read. Appreciate other authors’ hard work and send an email or tweet telling them so! Who knows? Someday someone could do that for you and make your day.

8. Read some more. There are two types of books. Books by authors more talented than you (JK Rowling, sit down), and books by authors you feel share about the same level of talent as you. The more talented will inspire you to dig deeper into the craft. Authors as talented as you will inspire you because they are proof you can make it–they are hope for us embodied.

9. Dream big. Dream bigger than is realistic. What would you do if you became a published author? Could you finally quit that day job you hate? Could you buy your dream home or travel the world? Could you touch just one heart, and know all your hard work was worth it?

10. Take a break to live. Take a break to dance and eat good food and talk to your family. Take a break to write something new. Take a break to write something bad. Take a long break from your work so you can go back to it with fresh eyes. If you never do this, you'll write yourself dry.

I don’t think any of these are new ideas. This also isn't a complete list. These are just the things that help inspire me, and I hope will inspire you, too. Go out and grab that inspiration and suck it dry for all it’s worth. But first! Tell us what inspires you.

Tons of high fives,


  1. Way to characterize JK Rowling as Hermione. I love it. You made me smile and laugh out loud throughout.

    Thanks for the tips! I'm already really really good at Number 9, but I should work on things like Number 2, and also tweeting authors whose books I loved. Great idea!

    Also, not even our beloved JKR is perfect--she admits to having issues with math(s) in her books, like the whole 10 students per house per year, but a whole lot more than 700 students total, thing... (And in the first editions of the first books, when Oliver Wood says they haven't won a tournament since Charlie Weasley was on the team, and he graduated the year before Ron and Harry started.)

    1. Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)
      I didn't know all that Harry Potter stuff--interesting!

  2. Excellent advice on all counts.

    #10 can easily be forgettable if you're really anxious to keep working. And it only leads to one thing—burn out!

    This reminds me of a famous quotation from Pablo Picasso:
    "Inspiration exists, but it must find you working."

    —Vic S.—