One of the biggest challenges that faces anyone in writing is ‘how can I be inspired to write.’ So often the advice for writers of all levels is – just write and write what you know. But how can writers overcome the dreaded ‘writer’s block’ or get ideas for their writing: from essays to creative pieces? The following are some tips and advice to help you find inspiration in your writing.
1. Plan, brainstorm and research
Planning, brainstorming and research should always be the backbone of any written piece. If you are writing an essay on a literature novel then your planning and research will be focused about that book. Check the post ‘How to Perfect the Art of Essay Writing’ and you will notice that the number one advice provided on how to write an essay revolves around planning.
What do authors do?
Many authors have different methods for how to push through ‘writer’s block’ as explored in the following episode of Writing Excuses. They explore the idea that being blocked in a particular part of writing often has to do with such elements as motivation, trying to force something into a story, or keeping your internal editor working full time during the drafting stage of your work.
Planning is an element that will help you to avoid becoming blocked and lacking in inspiration when you write. Some authors when blocked will go revisit their plans and re-write previous parts of their story or essay and this will help them find the inspiration to continue writing. Others will go and research something that will appear later in the story and the idea for how to continue will naturally develop from this.
The key idea?
The key idea being expressed here is that if you appropriately plan whatever you want to write – inspiration will come. If you want to write anything from a superhero novel, or an essay on thermodynamics, or a picture story book you need to plan and/or brainstorm what the themes and ideas of your work will be, and then you need to research appropriately for that plan.
2. Inspire yourself with images
Many authors have begun writing with a single image or idea in mind. Take J.R.R. Tolkien who was inspired by the image of a hole-dwelling hobbit when he wrote the sentence down ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.’ Or take G.R.R. Martin who has repetitively said that the first idea for his fantasy series came from a mental image of mysterious wolves. Whether you inspire yourself with a mental image, or through a visual image in a photograph or as seen in a favourite film or television show – look to explore how an image, or the idea of an image behind a single sentence, could inspire you to create an entire essay or plotted story.
3. Inspire yourself with nature
Many noted authors used the scenery around them to weave beautiful descriptions. Charles Dickens and Jane Austen transformed their environments into copies expressed on the page for example. The novella, Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton also uses the landscape to express metaphors about the souls and inner-minds of its characters. In the same way, as a creative or non-fiction writer, you can seek to use the environment around you to express ideas.
If you are struggling to sit and write maybe go for a walk outside and explore the environment. Actively look at the world around you in all its minute details and use this to fuel your creative spirit. At the very least the break and the exercise may kick-start some creative neurons in your brain, allowing you to continue writing.
You may wish to keep a notebook handy as you explore nature – writing down reflections on the world around you as they enter your mind. Use these reflections as inspiration to fuel your writing – base your fictional worlds on what you see and therefore what you come to know.
4. Inspire yourself with other authors
Authors understand the writing journey, so reading their fictional or non-fictional works should be a source of great inspiration. If you are struggling with using metaphors in your novel, try to find examples of authors who use metaphors well. When struggling with plot-twists read authors who write brilliant plot-twists. And of course if you are looking to extend your vocabulary – read the dictionary.
If you need to write an essay or research paper, read papers and essays on similar topics by other writers. Observe the ways in which these other authors construct their arguments – do not copy their arguments but use them as a source of inspiration. Similarly, if you are stuck with a creative piece pick up a novel by an author who inspires you and remind yourself of what you love about beautifully written novels – use this as a source of inspiration for your own writing.
5. Inspire yourself with friends, family and colleagues
The people around you are often a source of comfort and advice – so why should they not also be a source of inspiration. Whether you seek advice from your best friends, your spouse/partner, your parents or any siblings, you should be able to rely on one person at the very least to be loving and honest in their assessment of your work and to be able to give you ideas to help prompt your writing in any regard. Whether these be ideas on how to continue your story, or the types of characters you create for your novel, to the ways in which you set about constructing an argument in your essay.
J.K. Rowling has stated that her famous character – Harry Potter – was named from some of the influential people in her life. C.S. Lewis wrote characters in The Chronicles of Narnia who were directly inspired by the people he grew up knowing and loving. Charles Dickens kept a notebook as a child working in a blacking factory, in which he noted characteristics of the people passing-by, utilising these notes about other people to inspire his vividly detailed literature creations. Similarly, you too can look to use other people as inspiration.
6. Inspire yourself with your life’s purpose
Ask yourself the following question: why am I writing? What is my motivation, my rationale, my reason-for-existence behind my writing? Am I seeking self-expression? Or am I seeking to meet a set of criteria? Can I look to explore the creative elements of my world? Do I want to emulate my hero authors? Or instead am I wanting to fulfil a challenge? There are multiple combinations for why you may wish to write – but essentially you may need to remind yourself of these core reasons.
When you fixate upon your purpose in writing, you will have inspiration to continue. And you will have a reason to write. For some, this reason may lie in faith and beliefs. And for others this may lie in interests. Or this may lie in career opportunities. Whatever the reason, the strongest source of inspiration will always exist in the meaning behind your life and your true purpose in writing.
7. A Small Warning
You want to allow your source of inspiration to lead you into creating your own piece of brilliant writing. One thing to always be careful of is that you do not allow that inspiration into unintentional plagiarism. For example, if you were a fan of Star Wars and wrote figures very similar to Jedi and Sith. Here your inspiration would be leading you towards creating a piece which is unoriginal.
If you allow that piece to inspire you instead of directing you, you may allow your loves to inspire you. In the case of the Star Wars example you may create your own space-opera novel with unique characters. Never forget that balancing your writing is crucial to an exemplary piece of work. If the inspiration is dictating how you write your piece, your piece threatens to become unbalanced. And this is something to be aware and careful of.