The Best and Unexpected Places to Find Writing Inspiration
Sometimes you stare at a blank page and your fingers, contrary to what your brain tells them, do not start typing.
Sometimes you look in your drafts folder and all your half-baked ideas no longer appeal to you.
Sometimes you’re wondering where on Earth you’re going to get your next writing idea. You pull your hair, you grind your teeth, but your mind remains as untouched by inspiration no matter how you beseech it.
Here’s what I’ve learned. You can force it. You can write about anything, eventually. You can spend hours grinding away, and words do come out. It’s not fun. It’s not easy. But you can make it happen.
You what’s a lot more fun and a lot easier? Writing when you’re feeling inspired, emotional, angry or excited. Sometimes your muse goes walkabout. But you’d be surprised just where you might find her lurking.
Twitter is your friend.
“Twitter?” I hear you exclaim. “Twitter dot com? That hellish website where everyone’s sarcastic and unhappy?”
That may be its reputation, but I find it’s an incredible source of inspiration if you know how to look for it. The genius of Twitter lies in the fact that people post short, snappy thoughts. It lends itself so well to a sharp, cutting analysis. That in turn will spark ideas, thoughts, and plans, in your head.
Plus, we all care more about what our friends care about. So when we follow the people we’re interested in, their thoughts and opinions might start the wheels churning in your own mind.
Here are two examples of my stories inspired by Tweets.
On Being Rich, But Not That Rich
Do we have the right to criticize billionaires when we are still, comparatively, very wealthy?
Why Does Kylie Jenner Being a Self-Made Billionaire Make Us So Angry?
At 21, she was named the world’s youngest self-made billionaire. People were mad.
For both stories, I was catching up on the news (OK, shamelessly procrastinating) when I saw something that caught my imagination. I immediately opened up a new tab and began to write because the story in my head was pushing so hard to get out. That’s what a good tweet can do for you.
Real life is full of stories, too.
If you’re one of the rare few who lives mostly in the outside world, interacting with people in real life, you might find Twitter not that great to navigate, or not that inspiring compared to the rich tapestry of human life around you.
A lot of the stories I love reading most are those which stem from personal experience. They’re the ones that cost me the most to write, sometimes, but the process often feels cathartic. The problem I hear most people say is that “It’s all been done before!”
That’s true. In however many thousands of years humans have been writing, most experiences have been written about. But every person is completely unique. We all have our own tales. Even if th eexact same thing happens to two very similar people, we’ll both have different lived experiences that inform our views on it, our take on it. Those turn into stories.
Here are two examples of my stories inspired by real life:
The Psychological Reason You Should Refuse To Apologize
When it comes to saying sorry, don’t.
Use This Trick to Beat Perfectionism
It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be better. — My mom.
For me, this isn’t like Twitter, because it’s not a sudden spark of inspiration. It’s something I have to go looking for inside myself— a story a friend told me, a memory I’d nearly forgotten about, an unusual perspective on a common topic. It can cost you to dig them out, but the result is always worth it.
You can borrow ideas from other writers.
In my opinion, as long as credit is given where credit is due, you absolutely can borrow ideas from other writers. Reading other people’s blog posts, articles online, finding literature on the things you’re interested in — it all gets you thinking. And that’s the first step in getting a writing idea.
Personally, some of my favorite topics are cats, psychology, and productivity hacks. I’m not an expert in any of those topics, but I love to read about them. Similarly, you might see a story, fiction or nonfiction, that turns on a proverbial light on in your head.
Here are two examples of my stories inspired by other people’s writing:
The Myth of Parasitic Mind Control
A story of humans, a mind-altering parasite, and your cat.
What Happened When I Turned Off All My Phone Notifications
The price we pay for regaining our productivity.
For the first one, I’d read a very interesting blog post about how all the science around a certain parasite and cats was super overhyped, which intrigued me. For the second, I’d read a lot around smart phones and productivity hacks, tried some out, and wrote about the experience.
This kind of writing can come when you least expect it. You’ll be happily re-reading a book by one of your favorite authors, studying a paper for your degree, or even just browsing on Medium, when a sentence or a concept will shine in a new light to you. You’ll have to capture it.
It all boils down to emotion.
Whether you use Twitter or something similar to try to spark that, dig deep inside yourself for personal stories, or bounce off the experiences of others, what you’re doing is looking for the emotions that make you unique.
If you’re looking for a story in your head but coming up blank, these three sources work for me. In my opinion, the best writing comes from the heart. And the best way to be inspired to write from the heart is when you feel strongly about something. No matter where that something comes from, if you’re looking for writing inspiration, use what makes you feel.