Don’t Have a Clue? 5 Tactics for Inspiration

Sometimes inspiration flashes like a thunderbolt from the sky…but in my experience, inspiration much more often something you must actively chase – like a tornado hunter.

Many of you aspiring writers might already be cooking already. The boiling roll of inspirational waters has reached a simmering point and you’re on your way. Congratulations!

But for others who are either casting around for a new idea for a short story or novel and feeling uninspired – allow me to share some of my tricks. Because I’ve been there – believe me! Nothing worse than not having a clue of what you want to write about.


Visit an art gallery, museum and let the works wash over you. Keep your mind open and then stand before a painting or sculpture that you find yourself particularly drawn to. Imagine yourself as a figure in the painting or the figure of the sculpture – what’s your story? Who are you? Or imagine you are the artist and think about what you were doing the moment you created the work. Keep your notebook handy and jot down as many thoughts as you have in 5 minutes. Don’t edit yourself just keep going until the 5 minutes are up.

Take a look at your notes and see if there’s a nugget of something you can elaborate on.

 ‘Inspiration’ is a word used by people who aren’t really doing anything. Nick Cave


I was a member of a writing group for over 14 years – and some of our inspiration for some of our work came from our yearly retreat to a member’s cottage up in Parry Sound. We’d each come armed with pens, notebooks and writing exercises to get the creative juices flowing. One of our members had a fantastic postcard collection of evocative images.

We’d each blindly pick a postcard and then for 10 minutes we’d write a story, letting the work flow without self-censorship. We’d start by writing a first person narrative; then a dialogue and then a third person narrative; then a pure description; and so on.

Many of the work that happened in those 10-minute sessions led to longer works of fiction for all our group.

Try it yourself – use the image below.


There are little gems all around us that can hold glimmers of inspiration. Richelle Mead


Go to CBC News, the BBC News, MSN, Yahoo News, etc and scan the headlines in the local, national and international headings. Pick 3 headlines that grab your attention – don’t think too much just go with your gut…and then write a one-line logline for 3 different genres for each in 5 minutes. Remember don’t overthink it! They all won’t be fabulous – but one might catch fire…

Example – (these were from CBC News)

“Air China flight makes emergency landing in Winnipeg”

Romance – Flight attendant falls in love with political dissident from China.

Supernatural Horror – Ancient Chinese vampire unleashed on a city in the midst of bone-chilling winter.

Thriller – When a petty thief steals a mysterious package from on board the airplane, she finds herself the target of an assassin, a former spy and desperate politician.

“Asteroid explosion lights up early-morning sky over Arizona: Fireball was 10 times brighter than the full moon”

Mystery – Detective investigates the mysterious disappearance of an astronaut just days before the official Moon Landing.

Sci-Fi – A young princess and her entourage flees her world on a ship that crashes on Earth.

Fantasy – A sorcerer hunts a newborn dragon who is being protected by a orphaned brother and sister.

Inspiration comes of working every day. Charles Baudelaire


Get out of the house! Ride the bus, go to the library, sit at the café, go to a festival, go to the park… and make up a little story for the first 3 groups of people that you spot – be it a family, three giggling teenagers or a dog-walker with a passel of pooches.   Don’t forget your notebook, or if you like thinking out-loud – use the audio record function on your phone.

If you don’t happen to see people…simply walk and take in the scene in front of you. Let your mind wander and be alert for what it’s trying to tell you. Some of my best ideas have come from a solitary walk down a new street or a nature trail.


Take in live theatre, a dance performance, a magic show, a concert, etc. Let the artistry of the event wash over you; read the program and discover who is part of the production; let your mind pick up on the ideas and emotions that the performance is evoking in you; and then write for at least 10 minutes during intermission or afterwards.

Wake up the next day, read your notes and see what came up in your free association. Is it the answer to something you’ve been mulling over subconsciously for a while…is there a character that’s trying to jump off the page…or a plot line that’s forming…?

Now it’s your turn! Try some of these tips – let me know how it goes! Or if you have tips of your own for fostering inspiration – please share!

From Psychology Today

A Q&A with the author of the land-mark book on creativity – “The Artist’s Way”

The Artist’s Way: An Interview With Julia Cameron



5 thoughts on “Don’t Have a Clue? 5 Tactics for Inspiration

  1. That you so much for the tips. As a new blogger, I am definitely experiencing writers block. I will use these to help with my next blog!

    I also did your little experiment with the picture (I really like tests like that). I’m no writer to I didn’t really make a story but this is what I wrote:

    -I’m alone
    -Am I lost?
    -It’s foggy so I picture Seattle or wherever Twilight was filmed.
    -t’s ominous
    -The Trees have no leaves, it must be fall indicating a change in times
    -there’s hardship ahead
    -I am strong but vulnerable in this moment
    -I’m on a path
    -Is it the right path?
    -Is what I desire at the end? I cannot tell
    -My name is Katie – plain, no one expects anything extraordinary from me
    -I am small in this big world
    -I’m heading somewhere good though I have to travel through difficult times
    -There’s no one for miles
    -I enjoy the solitude
    -people from my past made me learn to enjoy solitude
    -winter is coming soon so I should be stopping somewhere for shelter soon

    That’s all I got. I hope other people try it too so we can compare.
    Great posts!


  2. I liked the quotes from Baudelaire and Nick Cave. I personally think that inspiration is over-rated. Good writing takes practice, even when you don’t feel like it. And thanks for the link about “morning pages.”


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