How to Stay Inspired

writing ideas

How to stay inspired.

Writer’s block is probably the most frustrating experience any writer faces. You feel creative and you want to create, but you’re just not inspired.

It happens to most artists from time to time, this disconnect from the muse. Yet there are creative people who seem to have overcome artistic roadblocks — authors who publish multiple novels every year, filmmakers who produce annual blockbusters, and musicians who are on the top-ten list week after week. They know how to stay inspired, but how do they do it? Have they tapped into a secret, endless stream of ideas?

How can you tap into that stream?

I always say look to the source. When I see successful artists and innovators who are consistently producing creative work, I find myself wanting to learn more about where they get their inspiration.

Inspired People

It makes sense that as a writer, you would look first to other writers to find out how they keep their creativity flowing. So go ahead and do that. Read biographies of your favorite authors and listen to interviews with writers to see where they got some of their best ideas. If you look hard enough (or listen closely enough), these writers will explain how to stay inspired.

But don’t limit yourself to writers. Inspiration is similar across all the arts. So check in with folks from other disciplines too. And don’t limit yourself to only those artists whose work you enjoy and appreciate. You might find that a movie director whose films you don’t care for has a creativity technique that works perfectly for you.

I recently heard a musician talking about inspiration, and he said it was like the music came through him rather than to him. He explained that his source is unknown and outside of himself. Other artists will talk about “the zone,” a state of mind in which concentration and focus are absolute and intense. In this zen-like state, inspiration can reach an all-time high. In fact, in this state, creativity is the high.

The Idea Zone

How do artists get into the zone? Some meditate; others use rituals, which might include working out or listening to music. Some read. Others do writing exercises to get warmed up. There are countless ways to get into the zone. At times, you might find yourself slipping into it by sheer coincidence or by accident.

There does seem to be this space that all creative people share. It’s not a physical place; it’s a place in our minds (though some believe it’s outside of ourselves, and that is certainly worth contemplating).

The point is that by stretching your boundaries and experimenting with various techniques, you can find what works best for you.

Do you have any tips for how to stay inspired? How often do you think about the source of your creativity? Share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment.

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About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.


28 Responses to “How to Stay Inspired”

  1. Paulo Campos says:

    A habit I learned while reading about Virginia Woolf: she regularly copied passages she liked from books she was reading into notebooks. I began setting aside journals specifically for this purpose and copy everything I underlined once I’ve finished a book.

    When I’m stuck or looking for inspiration I’ll take one out and flip through it. Not only is it enjoyable to review work I admired, but the ideas, descriptions, and phrasings will often spark a train of thought that gets me working.

    Thanks for posting this!

    • That’s an excellent habit, Paulo. I haven’t even gotten into the habit of underlining or highlighting passages unless I’m reading nonfiction (educational material). Journals can be used in so many ways!

  2. I do believe in the zone of creativity. For me water seems to be a conduit of creativity. Don’t know why. Maybe my muse is a fish! I can be washing dishes, soaking in the hot tub, taking a shower…doesn’t matter, but that is when the best ideas jump out. I have many notebooks with water stains on them from writing with wet hands!

    • Water often represents emotion. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that creativity is inherently linked to our emotions. I too find that the shower is a prime place for creativity. Unfortunately, it’s not like we can bring our notebooks in there! I love the idea of the muse as a fish.

  3. Kelvin Kao says:

    It’s been raining for a week, which is very rare for Southern California. Perhaps the local creativity in this area has just recently spiked as a result!

  4. Archan Mehta says:

    Hey Melissa:

    You inspire me! Your blog has a bunch of interesting and insightful posts. I want to take this opportunity to say, “thanks for all the hard work. It shows!” And keep your pen flowing, we look forward to reading your ideas.

    Writer’s block can (sometimes) be overcome by the simple act of, well, travel by the road not taken (Robert Frost). Do something out of the ordinary. Step out of your comfort zone. Try a new recipe. Visit an exotic island, and so on.

    And while you are at it, make sure to keep a small note-pad in your pocket and a handy pen that actually works. Inspiration can strike at anytime, and you’ve got to keep your wits about you. When the muse visits you, jot down that idea immediately. Your muse is a tricky customer, and she may decide to leave you, suddenly, in search of greener pastures or a coveted diamond ring!

    • Archan, Your words mean so much. Thank you! You’ve included a lot of great tips in your comment. I use many of those strategies (I always keep a small notepad nearby!), and writer’s block is almost always cured with a simple change of environment. And I’m always looking for ways to outsmart the muse!

  5. Brad Vertrees says:

    A lot of my inspiration and ideas come from music and that very lucid interval between sleeping and wakefulness when the mind is more open and that annoying ‘self-censor’ appears to be turned off. When I get ideas, no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I try to write them down ASAP, lest I forget they escape me.

    • I cannot even tell you how inspired I am by music. I’m a serious music lover and hardcore fan of my favorite artists. In fact, much of my inspiration comes not from the music itself, but from the musicians and performers (I watch a lot of interviews).

    • Kelvin Kao says:

      You know, many a times what happened was I had a deadline for something. I would stay up trying to think of ideas, but I couldn’t think of anything. And just when I was half asleep, an idea would hit me. I would think about it and it would seem like a great story, but I would be too tired to write it. And then I would go sleep and wake up early the next day to write it. That worked well for me quite a few times.
      .-= Kelvin Kao´s last blog ..Twitter =-.

      • The trick is to remember it all through your sleep! I have had some pretty cool ideas while drifting off and then woke up the following morning knowing that I’d had them but completely forgetting what they were! That’s why there’s a little notebook and pen in my nightstand drawer.

  6. Karen Swim says:

    Recently, I read a post by Seth Godin that invoked an “aha” moment. He wrote of creative talents that have produced some of the greatest works of our time, yet we have only seen / read / heard a small fraction of what really was created. Great filmmakers may be creating a film a year but they do not all get made. Songwriters may write hundreds of songs but have less than one album a year produced. It opened me up to realize that allowing myself to fail often is what truly unlocks the muse. So often what has created the block for me personally is a focus on the end result. Allowing myself to just go with it even if that means writing about being stuck or firing off a string of seemingly disparate words…has allowed me to have more control over my muse.

    • I’ve heard that a successful writer doesn’t have to be talented or skilled as much as he or she needs to be productive. The idea behind this is that if you generate loads of writing, some of it is bound to be good (even if on accident). Interesting way of looking at it! On the other hand, if you have all the talent and skill in the world but don’t produce much, it’s difficult to succeed. It all boils down to output and making good decisions about what to put out into the world.

  7. Deb says:

    I can relate to Karen’s comment. I often get “ah ha” moments when I can’t use them so I collect them, as in write them down, because sooner of later them come in handy even if not in the same context in which they were discovered.

    I have found getting back to sketching a helpful idea and vision tool too.
    .-= Deb´s last blog ..It’s the same world, but it’s different =-.

    • I try to do this too, but it sure seems like I accumulate more ideas than I can pursue in a lifetime! I have entire notebooks filled with ideas, sketches, etc. I guess the trick is picking which ideas to carry out.

  8. J.D. Meier says:

    I find my ideas flow all the time if I’m in the right state of mind, so the key for me is having a simple way to capture them, and making time to act on them.

    Ever since I started carrying a yellow sticky pad around a few years back, it’s really helped me flow more ideas. They no longer have to jumble around inside 🙂
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..Dancing in the Rain =-.

  9. t. sterling says:

    I’ve referred a few of my friends to your blog for inspiration or even guidance when they are writing… whatever they are writing (one was working on a memoir, another a novel, and another a blog). I don’t know if they ever made it or not but that’s one more trusted resource they have that they didn’t before.

    Meanwhile, for me, I guess astrology explains some of my creativity, due to me being an Aquarius. I actually have read that before somewhere though… But I’ve found interviews to be a great source for inspiration and ideas. There’s a podcast for screenwriters I like to listen to on occasion. The only bad part about it is, the interview is in front of a live audience and takes place immediately after the screening of that screenwriter’s movie. So if it’s a movie I want to see and haven’t yet, there are some major spoilers. But the questions are generally the same, one of which is asking how long does the writer write in a single day, or how is his process? And what do you do if you have writer’s block. I like those answers because if anything, it reminds me that everyone gets stuck sometimes and there are different methods on how to get unstuck.

    Another way I get my ideas is just from conversation. Like today I came up with a novel idea that even if I said the title I’d give too much away. I don’t know if I can make it a novel, maybe a novella? But it’s a memoir of someone else’s life. I went into improv mode speaking as the main character (I actually come up with characters and other story ideas through improv) and literally made up 3 separate chapters within 10 minutes. It was quite fun except I was riding with a friend (who was driving) and my story was making her laugh so much I had to stop or break character to tell her to pull over before we crash. These friends also act as my muses.

    • Thanks! It means a lot to me that you send your friends here. Oddly enough, I can picture you improvising your story by acting out the characters, which is weird only because you and I have never met in person. My imagination is a good lil’ worker bee.

  10. Jesse Byron says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who finds water, particularly rain, as inspiring. I love rain and the storms that sometimes bring it. It’s just crazy. Once, when the wind got really bad, I took a chair and a journal out in to the middle of the yard and did a stream-of-conscious piece, It. Was, Awesome. Like you said above, the creativity becomes the high itself.

  11. Justin says:

    Hi Melissa,
    I get some of the best creative ideas when I am tired. Last night I had the worst night’s sleep but my mind is coming up with all these creative ideas. Not all of them are just for books or movies. Some would make hilarious advertisements too.

    Either way, I do get writer’s block like everyone else. It usually is a symptom of a clogged chakra. What I do is kneel on the floor and press my forehead against the ground. This will open up the third eye and creativity inside the head.

    Take care.

  12. Elisa Henderson says:

    Thank you for the information on writer’s block and ways to combat it. I teach a creative writing class and it is always helpful to hear others take on how they combat the demon that is Writer’s Block. I personally try to keep paper and pen on hand at all times because, I never know when an idea will strike. I know that’s an old school philosophy in a new technological age but it’s the paper and pen that help me get to my creative place. Whether poetry, stories or scripts and plays, I begin with the pen to paper and then move to the typing.

    • I feel more creative with paper and pen (or a white board) too, and I like to keep tools on hand for jotting down notes and ideas. Smart phones are excellent for that!

  13. Bethie says:

    For inspiration I’ll watch a show in the genre I’m trying to write or even do some fanfiction from it. I find it helps me come up with ideas for my own characters. I also go to the store or coffee shop and eavesdrop on conversations. Especially one sided cell calls. I come up with what the other person is saying. I ask the what if question and the Why question as I’m listening to people talk.
    Thanks for reposting this. I love the advice you give, and like the others have said, direct my creative friends to your spot. Our writing group gets to hear about your posts all the time.