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Writing Tips: Where and When Do You Get Inspiration?

Updated on February 21, 2019
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.


"I have so many great ideas for my book [or blog]. Now if I could just remember them when I get down to writing!"

This is a common problem I hear from both newbie and established writers, book authors and bloggers. With our multitasked lives pulling us in a dozen directions at once, brilliant insights and thoughts can evaporate into nothingness if not recorded. Makes you wonder how many great books and blogs never got written and never got a chance to change the world.

Here are some tips that writers can use to capture those fleeting flashes of inspiration.

Auto Writing (Not the Divine Kind)

Though some claim that they are merely channeling the words of some divine or paranormal presence when they write—often referred to as auto or automatic writing—others (including myself) will come up with some amazing writing ideas while on the road. That's a whole 'nother type of "auto writing."

For some people, daily routine driving can release the mind to think of other things, such as writing ideas. But one still has to keep engaged and safe in the driving process. Eyes and attention on the road!

  • Writing Tip: Keep the radio (or music) off and keep a voice recorder ON (so you're not futzing with the buttons) to record those thoughts while keeping your attention on the road and traffic conditions. Don't try to edit the thoughts while driving! Just spew them into the recorder and listen to and transcribe them later when you're not in your vehicle. Some recorder models have voice activation features which record just when you speak (a convenience and safety feature). I also keep a notepad and pens in the car to write down ideas when the vehicle is stopped and in park.

My Car is My Sanctuary

I used to listen to music in the car. Then I "graduated" to audio books and programs (and still use them occasionally). But these days, I'm more likely to keep my car quiet. Why? It's my sanctuary.

As noted in this post, driving around can spur new ideas for writing and so much more. I just become aware of my thoughts... some mundane, others miraculous. And I find that I'm less agitated with the inevitable Chicago traffic.

I've always had a difficult time carving out time and space for authentic "meditation." But at least I know I'll have some "meditative miles" waiting for me when I pull out of my driveway.

Writing at 2:00 a.m.

By far, I find that my mind overflows with ideas when I wake up in the middle of the night. I'll call it the 2:00 a.m. problem. So I keep a pen and paper by the bed to quickly jot down a few notes which, I hope, I'll be able to read in the morning.

Not sure if I'm getting these inspirations from dreams (sometimes) or if my mind is just more alert and able to process ideas right after sleeping. Either way, there are nights where I can scribble up to a half dozen notes. Plus, once I write them down, my mind can go back to rest without worrying about remembering the thought.

  • Writing Tip: Keep a pen and paper by your bed to jot down those dream time spurts of creativity and insight. If you can't write in the dark, and if it doesn't bother others sleeping in your room, keep a mini flashlight handy for notetaking. Avoid the temptation to park your mobile phone, tablet, laptop or other electronic devices by your bed for notes! Screen time can seriously affect your sleep time as discussed in the Huffington Post article, Reading on a Screen Before Bed Might be Killing You.


Another popular response to where and when writing inspiration comes is while meditating. I can somewhat relate, as noted in the earlier discussion on driving. But when you get an idea, should you interrupt your meditation to record it? (There's gotta be some clever Zen proverb to address that, right?)

  • Writing Tip: When going into meditation, whether at home or away, keep your trusty (and quiet!) pen and paper nearby to jot down insights. Voice recording or screen devices might disturb the meditative space, flow or other meditators in the area.

Change of Scenery... Or Maybe It's the Caffeine

It's no secret that I'm a fan of the popular coffee joints such as Starbucks, Caribou and Peet's. Since I do a lot of work from the home office, I find that putting myself in a different environment—sans home distractions and energies—can put me into a more creative state. Or maybe it's the aroma of the coffee or the caffeine. Not sure. But whatever it is, it works for me. And having access to Wi-Fi is a plus.

  • Writing Tip: Whether it's the local coffee haunt, the library, garden or some other favorite place, physically moving to another environment can unleash new perspectives and ideas. Pen and paper, laptops and tablets are all options, depending on the location and its unique limitations. Voice recorders may be disturbing if others are in the area. And would you really want to broadcast your brilliant (and copyrighted!) bursts of creativity in a public place? Not recommended.

Writing Power Showers

This is one I hear quite often from other writers. They get inspiration while in the shower or bath. Have to admit that this rarely, if ever, happens for me. To each his own. Maybe it's the relaxation from being in the water that allows the insights to come.

  • Writing Tip: Being in and around the water makes notetaking with paper and pen almost impossible and could lead to accidents from slips and falls! Plus, voice recorders and other such devices generally are not waterproof and electronics may be unsafe to use around the water (for both the electronics AND you!). Save recording those bathing induced inspirations until you're out of the tub or shower and dried off. Safety first!

Exercising and Walking

This is another place and time where I'm rarely, if ever, creative. Maybe because I'm usually walking the dogs and need to be very aware of my surroundings and the dogs' behavior. But I've heard of many people who find that exercise (of any type) or walking can bring them a wealth of inspiring ideas. Maybe it's the endorphin happy hormones that movement can release.

  • Writing Tip: While recording inspirations received during walking or exercising—whether with pen and paper or recording devices—be aware of personal safety issues arising from overexertion, physical limitations, trips, falls and surrounding dangers and hazards. Again, safety first! Also, if in a public space or in a group, beware of broadcasting your copyrighted creative output by using voice recorders.

Writing Prompt Exercises

Like physical exercise, sometimes you need to just schedule time to get yourself in writing mode. One way to do that is with a creativity tool called writing prompts. Briefly, prompts are short, thought provoking phrases or questions that help writers focus on a particular topic. The writer is asked to write either a certain amount of words or write as much as possible within a set time in minutes, hours, etc.

As with group exercise classes, prompt workshops are a great way to get started. There are also many writing prompt books and websites to inspire you.

One Place and Time You Might Not Be Inspired to Write

Surprised that sitting down in front of a computer isn't one of the inspiration places and times I mentioned? Rarely do I get a great writing idea while plunked in front of a screen in the office. In my opinion, computer time is where all the driving, 2:00 a.m., power shower, caffeine jolt, lotus sitting, cardio induced brain bursts emerge into a form that can be shared with the world.

But maybe you're different. Maybe at your computer is the ONLY place you're inspired. Take the following writing inspiration poll and share any unique inspiration zones with us in Comments.

Where and when do you get most of your writing ideas?

See results

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2015 Heidi Thorne


Submit a Comment
  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    5 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Kristen! Glad you've found some techniques for gettin' the Muse out. :) Thanks for the kind words! Have a great day!

  • Kristen Howe profile image

    Kristen Howe 

    5 years ago from Northeast Ohio

    Heidi, great tips since Nano's around the corner. Meditation did help me out, including walking meditation, to inspire my Muse to come out from hiding after a writing slump for almost two years. Great tips to keep us inspired all year long.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    6 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi bdegiulio! I would imagine with all the incredible places you visit, that inspiration is everywhere you look. :) Indeed, even with all that, you do need to get those ideas recorded somewhere, somehow before they're lost. Thanks for stopping by and have a beautiful day!

  • bdegiulio profile image

    Bill De Giulio 

    6 years ago from Massachusetts

    Interesting Heidi. I would say that while exercising or on the road for me. I do find that I need to jot down the ideas or they sometimes are forgotten. Great job.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    6 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Suhail! Indeed, we all get ideas from everywhere and everyone. But you're right, getting 'em down is a whole 'nother process. Thanks for reading and your kind comments! Have a great weekend!

  • Suhail and my dog profile image

    Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

    6 years ago from Mississauga, ON

    Great tips in this hub, Heidi.

    Ideas come up to me all the time, but writing up is an entirely different ball game, isn't it?

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    6 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi AliciaC! You're very welcome. Glad you found them useful. Thanks so much for stopping by and have a wonderful day!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    6 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Cathy! Glad to see I have company at 2am. :) Thanks for weighing in on the conversation. Have a wonderful day!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    6 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Perspycacious! Ain't it great we can share our fave places... and get some new ones from our hubber pals? Thanks for the kind comments. Have a great day!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    6 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi emge! Thanks for the kind comments. Glad you found them useful. Cheers!

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

    Thanks for sharing the great ideas, Heidi. They are all useful.

  • profile image

    Cathy Xavier 

    6 years ago

    I feel this too "The 2:00.a.m problem".Good read!!

  • Perspycacious profile image

    Demas W Jasper 

    6 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

    My favorite places led to just that, an article on favorite places for inspiration. Lots of good ideas here and in the comments others have provided.

  • emge profile image

    MG Singh emge 

    6 years ago from Singapore

    Excellent suggestions and well presented

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    6 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hello Blond Logic! Seems you have an inspiration technique in common with a few other commenters. Physical labor can have similar effects to that of exercise. And, yes, voice recorders can be very handy for notetaking. Thanks for weighing in and have a beautiful week!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    6 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hey Larry! I think you have a lot of company with those who get ideas while doing physical tasks. Kind of like exercising... well, sort of. Yes, those types of activities allow one to zone out and enter another mental space. Thanks for adding your experience to the conversation! Have a wonderful week!

  • Blond Logic profile image

    Mary Wickison 

    6 years ago from Brazil

    I think most of my ideas come when I am working. I have a small farm and I am either mindlessly pushing a wheel barrow, raking, digging or working in the lake. I think the voice recorder is a great idea.

    I have been using my MP4 for audio books but should also use it for verbal reminders.

    Excellent ideas.


  • Larry Rankin profile image

    Larry Rankin 

    6 years ago from Oklahoma

    Personally, I find inspiration from everywhere you mentioned and more, but if I had to pick the most fruitful, it would probably be physical labor. The more mindless the better. Something monotonous so I can zone out and find a new world.

    Great hub.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    6 years ago from Chicago Area

    Well, billybuc, it doesn't surprise me that you dabble in all the roads to creative inspiration. As we've talked about before, ideas are everywhere. Thanks for the support, as always! Have a wonderful week!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    6 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Katie! Totally agree that we need to think more about the creativity instead of the blocks. In fact, even the thought that we do (or will) have blocks can dash any shred of creativity we have. Thank you so much for adding that point to the conversation! Have a great week!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    6 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi purl3agony! I'm going to guess that you also get inspiration for writing from your many crafting pursuits. Good note about using walk time for the structuring of your work. That in itself is a creative adventure! Thanks for adding your insight to the conversation and have a delightful week ahead!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    6 years ago from Chicago Area

    FatBoyThin, gotta admit I'm kind of jealous that you have the capability to be creative at the computer. :) It is quite handy. Thanks for that vote for computer creativity. Have a great week ahead!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    6 years ago from Chicago Area

    Another great creative spark, FlourishAnyway! And with your talent for playlisting, I'm guessing that hearing songs is another road to creativity for you. Thanks so much for adding that great idea to the conversation. Have a beautiful week!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    6 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hello lambservant! Glad to see there are other writers who find windshield time as creative time. Like you, I think of my best stuff in solitude, but realize that this time is probably just my mind reorganizing a myriad of thoughts picked up during the day-to-day of life. I also have breakthroughs during meetings with intelligent friends who have a completely different perspective.

    And thank you for adding the footnote to the texting tragedy! It is a serious issue, especially for younger generations.

    So appreciate you adding your insight to the conversation! Have a wonderful week!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    6 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hello, jpcmc! Yes, I'm going to guess that a whole bunch of writers would agree with your toilet creativity. True, it is quiet and away from distractions. I say, whatever works! Thanks for weighing in and have a great week!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    6 years ago from Olympia, WA

    A little of them all. Most ideas come while sitting at the computer, but they can come from the other options as well. Life is filled with writing ideas if I'm listening and watching.

    Have a great week, Heidi!

  • Katie Kizer profile image

    Katie Kizer 

    6 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

    This article was fascinating and so helpful. Sometimes the conversation needs to go beyond writer's block to just inspiring creativity. Thanks for posting!

  • purl3agony profile image

    Donna Herron 

    6 years ago from USA

    Hi Heidi! Thanks for another inspirational and enjoyable hub. I get ideas at different times, doing all types of activities (and for extended times, I don't get any ideas at all). But I find my morning walk is a great time to work out how I'm going to structure my writing, or how to work out issues or problems I have in my writing. But most important is to write down or note in some way those ideas when you do get them. Thanks again for posting and sharing!

  • FatBoyThin profile image

    Colin Garrow 

    6 years ago from Inverbervie, Scotland

    Interesting stuff, though I find most of my ideas come as I'm writing at the computer, which is quite handy.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    6 years ago from USA

    So many of my ideas are sparked by photos so I save tons of them, take tons of them. Even if I won't use those specific photos in my writing I can easily recall the creative notion behind them and often they spark multiple ideas.

  • lambservant profile image

    Lori Colbo 

    6 years ago from United States

    Great topic, Heidi. I live on a rural peninsula so going just about anywhere requires many miles and much time in the car! Like you, ideas surface! If it's something that really lights a fire under me, I remember it! It never occurred to me though to record my ideas! Duely noted! I have few things come to me during a shower! I think of things whenever in solitude, and often times after a discussion in bible study or private conversation! Thanks for some good tips!

    A dear friend lost her 15 year old son when he was texting while stepping off a curb! Tragic!

  • jpcmc profile image

    JP Carlos 

    6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

    Hello Heidi, it's been a while since I wrote something. I guess I've been preoccupied with lots of things. I often get my writing inspiration while I'm in the toilet. Well, it is peaceful there. Lol. I think I should try your tips to get new inspiration.


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