Finding Inspiration

My favorite ideas are the ones that I don’t see coming. The stories that creep up behind me when I’m not even thinking about writing, and then zap me right in the brain, demanding to be told. Whether it’s having an emotional conversation with a friend about the subject of adoption, or seeing a gargoyle wearing a hula skirt on someone’s lawn, inspiration can come from a million different places, each as unlikely as the next, and only one thing’s for certain: when it strikes, you’ll know it. You’ll write like you have a fever. You won’t want to sleep. You won’t want to eat. Your fingers will gallop across the keyboard, desperate to fill up those blank pages before that demon-possessed, gotta-get-it-all-down feeling leaves you for good.

Uninvited, unexpected inspiration is awesome. Problem is, at least in my case, that type of do-or-die inspiration only hits about three, maybe four times a year. In between those lightning flashes, I start to have my doubts. Yes, I’ve written things that I’m proud of…in the past. But will I ever write anything good again? Will I ever have another great idea that gets my heart thumping? What if the perfect idea does come, but I can’t write the story because I’m so disgustingly out-of-practice?

In case you haven’t figured it out yet: me + nothing to write = too much time to think. My solution: If inspiration won’t come to me, then I will go hunt it down, tie it up, and drag it back to my writing cave. Truth is, you don’t have to wait for a flash of lightning to get those writerly juices flowing. There are a bazillion prompts, contests, and challenges floating around on the internet, each and every one of them designed to help writers stay sharp and conquer that blank page. I already posted one list of Writer’s Digest writing exercises at the end of last year:

Need more? Writer’s Digest offers weekly writing prompts here:

Still blocked? There is a really neat literary journal called The First Line ( which actually provides you with the first line of your story. They have four issues per year, and every single story in the fall issue starts with their fall prompt line. Every story in their winter issue begins with the winter prompt line, and so on. They do this not only to help writers win the empty-screen stare-down, but also to celebrate the fact that a single line can lead each one of us in a different and highly imaginative direction.

Fact #1: Writing is fun. Fact #2: Not having anything to write can lead to gloomy, creativity-crippling thoughts. Don’t let a temporary lack of inspiration get the best of you. If you’re feeling unproductive and glum, check out the links above, or do a Google search for challenges, writing prompts or contests to get yourself motivated. Whatever you do, don’t give up. Tell that blank page to burn in h311, because tonight, you’re gonna write something.



2 thoughts on “Finding Inspiration

  1. Hi Gretchen,
    Our instructor for a National Novel Writing write-shop told us to just write ten words, whenever we were stuck. No self-editing, though. This usually led to another ten words and so on and so on . . .

    • Sounds like a great idea to get things flowing again (especially the part about not stopping to self-edit). I’ll definitely try this the next time I’m feeling blocked!

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