Writing Tips: Where and When Do You Get Inspiration?
"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?
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