I asked colleague Elizabeth H. Cottrell, about where she finds inspiration. She helpfully replied with this guest blog. Thank you! Elizabeth is a freelance writer, blogger, and note writer. Enjoy reading her Where I Find My Writing Inspiration. Follow her at Heartspoken.com
How writers answer the question “Where do you find your best writing inspiration?” will be as numerous and varied as writers giving answers. For me—and I imagine for many writers—inspiration comes from a myriad of sources.
Calendar and Client-driven “Inspiration”
To be honest, much of my writing is not inspired at all, at least not in the common understanding of that word. For those of us writing for clients, or personal blogs, the deadline is often the primary motivating factor.
As a ghostwriter, I carefully listen to my clients, to understand what they want the written product to accomplish and who they anticipate will read it. This gets my creativity geared up to most effectively achieve their vision.
We writers shouldn’t beat ourselves up that deadlines may generate as much writing inspiration as some powerful insight. This is human nature, and today with information overload, we’re busier than ever. Deadlines can keep us on track.
I find inspiration in both positive and negative daily occurrences. When I witness an unusual kindness—or even regrettable rudeness—I may be prompted to encourage readers to put their highest values to work. Through our writing, we can bear witness to the impact of small actions.
Observations combined with a questioning mind can yield a treasure trove of content. When we see something curious or even ordinary, we can unearth all kinds of ideas by asking, “Why?”
- Why did they do that?
- Why did they say that?
- Why does it work that way?
And then further questions can expand thinking:
- What if they had done it differently?
- What if they had said that with a different tone or in a different way?
- Does it HAVE to work that way?
- What happens next?
- What caused that to happen?
- Where did that come from?
A questioning mind can yield great writing results, whether they are problem-solving, fleshing out a fictional character, or developing a plot.
I am a keen observer of the natural world. Nature often reveals themes, lessons, and insights that find their way into my writing. Cycles of change…life, death, and renewal…the changing seasons and the life cycle of a butterfly…all reminders our own darkest hours will not last forever.
Reading and Listening
As an avid reader of books and listener of podcasts, I am often struck with phrases, ideas, themes, and insights that inspire me. The trick is capturing them while on the go. My cell phone has become my best tool. I use the dictation function to leave notes to myself. I usually do this in an app called Evernote, but other text app’s can help as well. I sometimes even email myself!
At home I have a reading journal in which I write highlights from my reading. I also keep a running “swipe file” in the back of a spiral notebook where I write down phrases and images that strike me as especially powerful. I haven’t yet come up with a system to effectively minie these, but I peruse them often, hoping they’ll inform my writing when I need it.
Nudges from God/Spirit
I call them “God-hugs,” but others might call them serendipity. These usually come with a “quickening of the spirit”—a sort of emotional spark that indicates they are important. As an avid note writer, I often experience these when a particular person comes to mind, and I feel I need to send them a personal, handwritten note.
A related spiritual inspiration I sometimes get comes when I simply ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit and anticipate an answer. It doesn’t always come right away, but I trust a helpful response will show up when the time is right. As a Christian writer, I ask for guidance as a regular part of my prayer life.
We should give our subconscious mind more credit for working on our behalf “behind the scenes,” even when we’re sleeping! If we stay busy all the time and try to think our way to every word we write, we’re missing a powerful resource that can’t be reached without still, quiet times.
When I meditate regularly, even if only 10-20 minutes, I find the creative juices flow more readily, and my writing has more energy. I don’t always do this, but when I do, it makes a huge difference.
I have a writing friend with an unusual approach. When she has a writing problem, question or obstacle, she writes it on a piece of paper and puts it under her pillow when she goes to bed. She swears her subconscious mind goes to work while she sleeps, and she often finds herself “unstuck” when she wakes up the next day. It’s worth a try!
Beware Comparing Yourself
It often seems other writers have more inspiration and talent than I do. Yes, indeed, there are always better writers in the world, but that doesn’t make me any less a writer or make my writing any less valuable.
Some writers swear that their ideas, plots, and characters come to them fully formed—or that they even appear as real people telling them what to write. I believe this happens, but never to me, and I’m not postponing my writing until it does.
Be Yourself and Find Your Own Inspiration
It’s great to be original, seminal thinkers, generating brilliant, new ideas that inspire readers to lead lives of meaning and significance.
But there’s also a place for interpretation, explanation, and curation of other people’s ideas. “There’s nothing new under the sun” has become a cliché because it’s pretty much true. When we can help our readers see or think about their world differently, we’ve expanded their horizons. When their reaction to our writing is “Oh my gosh, I’m not the only one!” we have conveyed a gift beyond measure.
You may be a world traveler or an armchair traveler, a corporate professional or a stay-at-home parent, “right-brained” or “left-brained,” a writer for income or a writer for your own reasons. Whatever kind of writing you do, your own surroundings and circumstances will always be the best source for your inspiration.
Expect them…look for them…and give thanks!