When we write, we try to adhere to the common rules of the game and hone our craft by studying and learning from the writers that have come before us and by practicing, practicing, practicing. So often, published and respected authors are asked about their source of inspiration. We want to know where they get their genius ideas from and how they come up with this or that. Most of them, if not all of them, will then laugh politely and reply, “I get my ideas from everywhere. I don’t know where they come from.” Do they really?
During the last eighteen months I found that inspiration and creative ideas don’t just appear on your door step. Not without some sign posts pointing in your house’s direction, at least. Although I’ve just published my first short stories collection on Amazon, the ideas for the stories about Vienna and food, and mixing genres didn’t come from “everywhere”. They came through rounds of brainstorming and building on the original idea that I didn’t want to commit to one genre just yet.
I came up with some quirky ways of finding inspiration for character names, plot ideas, language and style improvements as well as the general motivation to get that blank page filled. Below you will find my “Sunday Reads” from the past year that I did for my own writing and that have helped me plot, write and edit the stories that are now “Vienna in Short Stories”.
They are practicable ways to get out of your own head space and, ideally, spark a new creative thought.
- Dictionary of English idioms – Pick one idiom you like and use it as a writing prompt.
- Join a real-life or virtual book club. I joined Our Shared Shelf, Emma Watson’s Book Club on Goodreads, and found myself in a huge and engaged community filled with passion and purpose.
- Read a local newspaper from another part of your country, or even from another country.
- Dive into one or more hashtags that are completely out of your own social media and writing bubble and read some of the posts there.
- Read poems or stories from a completely different genre than what you write usually.
- Children’s literature (e.g. by Beatrix Potter) can be so innocent and uplifting, that you can’t but see the world in a positive light.
- Read letters of famous writers/artists to experience how they lived and what they thought (example: Oscar Wilde’s letters to magazines and critics are hilarious and witty).
- Friendship books from school time – remember them and how your friends and class mates would take it home and write you a poem in their best hand writing and make a drawing with glitter and stickers? Walk down memory lane and come back with a fuller heart and one or two new ideas.
- Look up synonyms in a synonyms dictionary to widen your vocabulary and improve your writing.
- Find new character names by flipping through a telephone book – they are a great resource for the most interesting names.
- Look into some books about hand lettering and see if you can get an idea or two from the different font styles.
- Check out writing podcasts or other podcasts for creatives – although they are not technically a read, they give me so much inspiration and courage!
- Indie magazines and the alternative angles on areas of your interests they have are an excellent way to find new inspiration, new people, and new visual aesthetics.
- Read a cook book about another culture’s cuisine (French, Icelandic, Vietnamese, etc.) to spice up the element of food in your stories.
- If you’re looking for jobs for your characters, check out your local newspaper or job ad sites to look up a variety of jobs for characters and the vocabulary that goes with them.
- Find a Sunday read in someone else’s bookshelves (mother, friends, etc) and borrow it – you might just broaden your horizon.
- Visit your town/city’s tourist shop and take a look at what your place of living is known for. It helps to see your surroundings with fresh eyes and spending a day as a tourist in your place of living might give you some fresh ideas as well.
- Get in touch with fellow writers and see where you can support each other in terms of beta reading, social media promotion etc. There is so much we can do to support each other even if it’s just a note saying, “got any writing done this week?” That way, you build a community that can lift you up when you need it and that you can be of service to as well.
- Read letters from an old pen pal to come across a story that you’ve long forgotten, or some new inspiration. For me, it was letters from my late grandmother.
Now that you know my quirky writing inspiration sources, what do you do to get out of your own head and be open to some new ideas? I’d love to read about it in the comments below!
As always, happy writing!