Inspiration for Writers: What Works for You?

“Words are a lens to focus one’s mind.”

Ayn Rand

I sit at the caramel-colored, L-shaped desk that my dad built for me last year and take in my office. The bright teal walls are filled with my own photography, colorful artwork, quirky posters, and shelves upon shelves of books. Soft music sets a dance beat for my fingers flying over the keys on my MacBook. This is my inspiration space. All of these sensory cues bring words to my mind, and it’s my job to sift through them and create order.

Writing is a bittersweet, life-long quest. It fulfills the soul and challenges the mind. It allows for connection in a world full of division. Writers find inspiration in a variety of ways in a variety of venues, but at its core, writing is a calling. Writers are driven to translate what they see or experience into a universal and impactful message to evoke an emotional response in a reader—an unknown yet kindred spirit.

What inspires you? Whether you’re at home, like me, or at the local coffee shop, or whether you need stimulation or complete sensory deprivation, we all have that source, or collection of sources, that light the fire within us to write—to create.

Need Some Inspiration?

When you’re writing, nothing is worse than the taunting, blinking cursor on a blank screen or the hesitation to set pen to paper. Words clog the mind, and they refuse to flow. We all strive for that moment when we become an unconscious vessel to the phrases as they form. In the rare times, I’ve achieved such openness in my writing, I don’t have time to recognize the words in my mind before I see them appear before me. That’s the true writing zone. But we can’t always achieve that. Sometimes writing is holding the bucket for drops of ideas or simply tending the garden of our mind in preparation for the future burst of springtime prose. If you need some inspiration, here are some ideas—some tried and true methods that have worked for me.

Change your location. Sometimes simply finding a new spot to write is all you need. There may be some distraction or uncomfortable, nagging feature about your current workspace that keeps you from focusing on your inner brilliance. I’ll admit that even my nice office desk becomes overly cluttered with homework or old mail, and I have to relocate. If somewhere else in your home/apartment doesn’t work either, go outside. Go to the local café or find a park bench (presuming, of course, it’s not raining). With that new perspective, you might loosen any mental or physical obstacles.

Play some music. Words jumble in my head sometimes when I’m trying to write, and music fills my headspace enough that I can then focus on the particular phrases I want. A favorite song can set a good beat—maybe you have a dance party in your chair. Create a relaxing yet playful playlist, loosen up, and feel the beat. Who knows where it could take you? Even if you don’t keep writing, it could be a fun jam session.

Try free-style writing. Get out of your head. As an editor and a writer, I often assume that sentences have to come out of my head already perfect. Or I’m trying to force a plot point that sounded good an hour ago but feels awkward in the flow of my narrative as I write it. Anyone would balk under that kind of pressure. Grab a journal, a favorite pen or pencil, and just free-form write (computers are ok too, but the act of writing slows you down and lets the thoughts form and escape). Write down all those chaotic thoughts, doubts, or concerns about your day, your life, your writing, and then you will find that after a few pages, suddenly, you circle back to the great idea that just wasn’t working because your thoughts were too scattered.

Take a walk. I always say—I think someone else said it first—that an active body means an active mind. Get the blood flowing. This, for me, has the same effect as free-form writing several pages, without all that work. The movement and outdoor stimulation often breaks open the mind and allows you to process inner thoughts better than continued staring at a screen.

Find another creative project. Change tactics. Take a break from writing, and try a different hobby. Thinking creatively toward some other goal might give your mind the break it needs. This is the equivalent of solving a problem from a different angle. You can still exercise your artistic muscles, and maybe some new craft project will lead to other, new, and even more exciting ideas for your current writing venture.

Attend a local writers conference/reading. Surrounding yourself with other writers and hearing about their passions and writing struggles can often be enough to stir the inner juices for your own work. Having a writing community to rely on for inspiration can be immensely rewarding. After all, you are trying to connect with readers and other writers with your work; why not do it in person and remind yourself why you’re writing in the first place.

Never stop believing. At the end of the day, if writing is your true passion, you should keep at it. Work through the awkward, poorly constructed prose until one day, you’ll find that it works. Be patient with yourself. If you believe, it will happen. Trust that you have an important message and readers to influence and entertain.

The Bottom Line

It can be difficult to stay inspired when the fast pace of today keeps us working in full-time jobs to pay bills that don’t always allow for that freedom to write under the best conditions. Even with endless free time, staring at the blank page can frustrate us. Inspiration, though, comes in the most unique and unexpected ways. Change your routine. Don’t put pressure on your writing session. Surround yourself with those symbols that stimulate you—whether it’s music, art, or friends.

We would love to hear from you about what inspires you. Feel free to comment below and share with the Junto community so we can all find inspiration from what works for you.

“A word is dead

When it is said,

Some say.

I say it just begins

to live that day.”

Emily Dickinson