Six Effective Ways to Inspire Yourself

Don’t you hate the feeling when you stare at your blank computer screen or your fresh piece of paper, your hands above the keyboard, your pencil hovering above the paper, and you don’t know what to write? I sure do.

But instead of sitting and staring, frozen with not a single idea of what to write, I get up, walk away, and get inspired.

Tapping a Pencil

Photo by Rennett Stowe

Here are six effective things you can do to inspire yourself:

1. Read/Watch Movies

Reading or watching a movie is a great way to take a break from your current writing project and get inspired. Often, if you see other peoples’ works of art or character creations it will give you an idea for your own story. Obviously you don’t want to steal anyone’s idea, but reading or watching a story will most of the time spark your brain and get you back on track.

2. Listen to music

Most of the time when I’m writing I’ll listen to music. Certain songs that I listen to give me ideas or energy when I’m writing a certain scene. I’ve found that listening to “The Hunger Games: Songs From District 12 and Beyond” gives me a boost while I write battle scenes or anything medieval. Some writers prefer to listen to music without lyrics so it doesn’t distract them, but others find a singer’s voice to be inspirational and energizing while writing. Find what works for you and stick with it.

3. Record your dreams

A good night’s sleep is good for recharging, but it’s also good for inspiration. Keep a notebook close by your bed so when you wake up from a vivid dream you can roll over, grab your notebook and pen, and write down everything you remember. Dreams are very good for giving you story ideas. It’s certainly worked for me. So next time you can’t think of what to write, consult your dream notebook for ideas.

4. Free Write

Just type away about whatever the heck you want. You could write random words that pop into your head, you could describe how awful your day was, you could say, “This is stupid this is stupid this is stupid . . .” It doesn’t matter what you write or how you write it, just make sure you’re writing and eventually you’ll get an idea.

5. Keep a notebook of words

Do you ever see a word that sounds “mystical” or seems to “sprinkle” “happiness?” Those three words are all in my “Cool Words Notebook.” Anytime I hear a word that sounds cool or a word I just really like, I write it down. Then if I get stuck writing something, I’ll flip open the notebook to a random page and try to use that word in my next sentence or paragraph.

6. Observe your surroundings

This has got to be one of the best ways to get inspiration. People, animals, and everything around you can give you some of your best ideas. What’s the story behind that man’s sad expression and trashed clothes? What happened to that dog’s broken leg? How can you fit that abandoned shack into your story? Keep a notebook with you at all times so you can write down everything you see at a moment’s notice.

What do you do when you’re feeling uninspired?

PRACTICE

Christmas is right around the corner, so choose one of these methods of getting inspiration and use it for fifteen minutes. Then write a Christmas story based on the inspiration you received and post it in the comments. Be sure to comment on a few other people’s practices as well. Have fun!

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

  • M.V… I too have had success with “Observing my surroundings”. We often imagine we need big ideas, but by looking closely at small things, we see whole worlds in there. I think it’s a matter of looking closely at anything. Anything has a life of its own. Just look at this box I’m writing in… it keeps stretching bigger as I type each line. Poor lonely box, dependent on someone pouring their thoughts into it so that it can become larger. Look, I’ll just write jibberish so that it can enjoy the expansion, so that it can breathe a little… d;zjeinssjgi j ddojdpfjd’f f dsjss/zccc///….. oeuoe,xc, x,e;eodied; d… Okay, you get the picture. Thanks for the tips, M.V.

    • themagicviolinist

      Wow, you really are aware of your surroundings! I would never have thought about this little box that way. Now I can’t help but keep typing because this little box depends on me, too. Let me join you in writing jibberish. alkdisueoiqjdlkujfjiowekkkkkdsalkjcoiuiou90999993919113405 😉

  • As to “observe your surroundings,” Florence Littauer always said, “Be alert to life.” I notice so many things, especially with marketing. And once you start noticing, you see things everywhere – billboard ads, grocery stores, building and road signage, etc.

    Sometimes when I get stuck, I work a crossword, cryptoquote or a sudoku. Not sure why, but that does wonders for clearing mental cobwebs.

    • themagicviolinist

      Crosswords, huh? I should try that. Lots of people find that just getting up and doing something besides writing clears their heads.

  • Debra Mauldin

    I chose the method ‘Observe Your Surroundings’ and it led to a rambling
    of my family’s Christmas

    Christmas with my Disjointed Family, by D.
    B. Mauldin

    Christmas is only
    5 days away. As usual I have
    procrastinated about wrapping presents and cooking for the festivities. I think I work better under pressure so I
    leave everything until the last minute.
    So here I sit in my usual recliner with my laptop, music playing in the
    background (not Christmas music yet), looking out my large windows with the
    lake in full view.

    Today it is
    raining and supposed to be turning cold later in the day. Maybe then I will feel more in the Christmas
    mood and get some things done. For now,
    I just sit, listen, and type. Listening
    to the 90’s songs I love so much, listening to the rain falling sometimes
    softly and sometimes heavy. The wind
    hasn’t started yet. I listen to the
    variety of birds that live about my home; the ‘hoot, hoot’ of an owl that I’ve
    never seen but know it is there somewhere, the scream of one of many hawks that
    stay close by, and the sweet sounds of the many songbirds.

    I’m thankful for
    my small home on the lake. There is
    seldom any traffic to hear, mostly just the nature sounds that I love, and lots
    of nature to see. Just sitting and
    looking out my large window I can see the loons swimming in the water, ducks
    coming to eat the corn I put out for them, squirrels coming down the oak tree
    to their feeding post, and some of my many outdoor cats slinking around when
    the rain is slight.

    There are no
    fishermen or boats on the water today, no birds flitting around the many
    bird feeders hanging in my front yard. My
    flower beds lay shriveled up for their winter sleep. My two terriers are piled around me sleeping
    and my one house cat has disappeared somewhere to take her morning nap.

    So, I sit and
    wonder what I can write about Christmas?
    Ours is a disjointed family which brings multiple holiday
    gatherings. Two of my daughters aren’t
    speaking to each other this year and we will have to work around that. My parents divorced years ago and our middle
    daughter lives 248 miles away. So we
    will celebrate Christmas Eve with my husband’s father, step-mom, brother,
    sister-in-law, niece, nephew, and their families which brings 4 girls, and 1 of
    them is married, so there will be a spouse, and she has a 1-year-old daughter,
    and another 1 of the 4 is not married and due to have her baby any day now.

    Then we will go
    to my oldest daughter’s home and spend Christmas morning with her and her
    husband, along with my mother, and 3 of my granddaughters. Usually this would include my youngest
    daughter, but not this year. We will
    spend Christmas night at our home with my mother, my youngest daughter, her fiancee,
    and his 2-year-old daughter, which I consider one of my granddaughters.

    We do not yet
    know the date our middle daughter will arrive with our grandson, and hopefully
    her husband (if he doesn’t have to work), but we do know that it will be after
    Christmas. We will again have a
    Christmas gathering that will include my mom, my husband’s father and sometimes
    his wife (if she is feeling well), and my youngest daughter, her fiancee, and
    his 2-year-old daughter.

    Then on the 29th
    we will go to the community house of my dad’s church and celebrate with him,
    his wife, my only living grandmother, my step-sister, her daughter and her
    husband, and their daughter and son.
    Depending on when our middle daughter gets here and when she has to head
    back, they may be celebrating with us.
    My oldest daughter and her 3 daughters may come, but not if my youngest
    daughter is there. Depending on work my
    youngest daughter, and her fiancée and his 2-year-old daughter (if it is his
    time to have her) may come.

    That about wraps
    up my Christmas story, but I want to say that even through all the disorder I
    love every minute of it; time spent with family, watching the excitement of my
    grandchildren, and loving each other even though we are a disjointed family. I’m thankful for it all.

    Hope you all have
    a wonderful Holiday Season!

    • I loved the description of the nature sounds, the birds, the squirrels, the lake. Sounds wonderful! Wishing you a wonderful Christmas season.

      • Debra Mauldin

        Yes, it is wonderful! Hope you have a very merry Christmas!

    • themagicviolinist

      Wow, just reading about your family makes my head spin. How do you keep all of those plans straight? I loved your description.

      • Debra Mauldin

        Years of practice, lots of love, and always being thankful. 🙂

  • I chose the “observe your surroundings”. Yesterday, I had lunch with my husband and a group of school children were present. The part about the song is true, the characters are fiction:

    Tara Miller signed when she saw two school buses in the
    parking lot of the local pizza buffet. “That’s just great,” she said aloud. “Which
    will it be? A horde of teenagers? Or a bunch of noisy elementary students?”

    She didn’t dislike children, but neither did she invite
    their presence. So much for a quiet lunch.
    If I hadn’t agreed to meet Jill and Michele, I would leave.

    She parked the car and walked inside. Looking around, she
    didn’t see the occupants of the buses. That’s
    good. They are probably sitting in another section. Jill and Michele were
    already seated at a corner table.

    “I’m glad you found a quiet spot,” Tara said. “I almost didn’t
    come in when I saw those school buses.”

    “Come off it, Tara. Children aren’t all bad,” said Michele.

    Jill added, “And this group has been rather quiet.”

    Tara quickly changed the subject. “Can we go to the buffet
    now? I need to be back in the office at 2:00.”

    They started to rise from the table when a group of around fifty
    students, most likely first graders, walked by. They were dressed in red shirts
    and wore Santa hats. Four teachers assembled them in rows near the exit door.
    They turned toward the customers and began singing, “We Wish You a Merry
    Christmas.”

    Tara smiled at the cheerful faces and exuberant voices. Her
    thoughts quickly turned to another group of first grade students. Twenty
    innocent children gunned down by a crazed killer. What would their parents give
    to be able to hear those voices sing? To see them smile and play and yes, be
    rowdy and rambunctious? To see their shining faces on Christmas morning?

    Then Tara thought of another child and his words when He
    grew older, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not:
    for of such is the kingdom of God.”

    Brushing back the tears from her eyes, she applauded at the
    end of the song. “God bless the little children.”

    • themagicviolinist

      Great story. I loved the ending. It was very sweet.

  • Lauren

    Couldn’t agree more with the first two points. I used both to get through college papers galore and whenever I’m stuck on a piece for writing. TV shows work great, too, because they go on forever.

    • themagicviolinist

      The only problem for me is not getting wrapped up in the book or show. Otherwise I’ll just watch the next episode or keep reading. XD

  • Rebecca

    I’d love to add – take a walk… or get some exercise, cliche but it works for a lot of people.

    • themagicviolinist

      Sometimes cliche is the way to go. 😉 That’s worked for me, before. (Just playing with my little dog inside the house is good exercise).

  • Ana

    How can you not be inspired by Tolkien?

    ***
    If there was one thing Frodo hated, it was his name.

    Because of it, since his childhood he had coped with odd looks, muffled chuckles and even bullying. Every time he introduced himself, he had to deal with people’s reactions. He couldn’t even count how many times he had had to reiterate that yes, he was indeed called Frodo. Yes, like the Hobbit. Some people tried to hide their surprise, some accused him of making fun of them and there was of course the occasional Lord of the Rings fan who would let out an excited squeal and tell him “how cool that is.” Truthfully, he couldn’t wrap his mind around this notion – in his opinion, there was almost nothing less cool than being named Frodo. (Although he supposed Samwise was a bit lamer.)

    He still hadn’t forgiven his parents for that. Both of them obsessed with Lord of the Rings, they had met at a fantasy and sci-fi convention. As his mother liked to say, “It was love at first sight.” Their wedding rings were replicas of the One Ring. Naming their son after the main character had seemed natural; for him it was an endless source of humiliation.

    In an act of teenage rebellion, he had sworn never to read the book. Almost 14 years later, he still hadn’t. Even so, he owned several copies of it – for some unfathomable reason, his friends kept insisting on buying him the damned thing on birthdays and Christmases. Every time, he laughed along while secretly plotting bloody vengeance.

    Through the years, however, he started to associate another feeling with his name – a gnawing curiosity. A part of him wanted to know what it was all about – a part that slowly but surely made its way out. Finally, he gave in to the temptation.

    It was Christmas Eve. His lofty apartment was empty, only the fire crackling in the fireplace could be heard. A smell of resin, coming from the Christmas tree, seeped through the air. The book in his hands was heavy with the promise of a mystery finally being explained to him.

    Sighing deeply, Frodo spread it open.

    ***
    Well. That came out longer than intended. Still, I hope it was as amusing to read as it was to write. Cheers!

    • themagicviolinist

      Lord of the Rings! 😀 My dad read The Hobbit to my brother and I years ago and we listened to the abridged Lord of the Rings recently, but I haven’t ever read the whole book. I know the story (and I love Gollem) but I should really read the whole version. (I also got to see The Hobbit on the big screen. Score!)

      Anyways, AWESOME story! I loved it. For a second I thought it was fan-fiction from the way you started writing it. I loved these lines: For some unfathomable reason, his friends kept insisting on buying him
      the damned thing on birthdays and Christmases. Every time, he laughed
      along while secretly plotting bloody vengeance.
      Hilarious! I laughed out loud. Keep up the good work! 😀

      • Ana

        Thank you! I’m really glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

        As for LotR, it’s amazing. It takes some patience to read because of the long descriptions and all that, but it’s a beautiful book! I also saw The Hobbit (twice) and I enjoyed it immensely. How did you like it?

        • themagicviolinist

          Yes, I’ve heard that some parts can be kind of slow because of the descriptions.

          I loved it! 😀 I’ve asked my dad for a while if I could watch the LotR movies and he said if I could watch The Hobbit no problem then I could see the LotR. I can’t wait to see them! 😀

          • Ana

            They’re still worth it, though! 🙂 And yeah, LotR: The Return of the King was on telly yesterday, and I was reminded of what a /wonderful/ film it is! I hope you’ll also enjoy it!

          • themagicviolinist

            Thank you! 😀 I’m sure I will!

  • Jordan

    I find I have to actively concentrate on becoming inspired. It takes a certain focus. If I decide to watch a movie, I have to concentrate on what the writer is doing with their characters. If I listen to music, I have to take care not to just simply get sucked into the musical flow but to be constantly and creatively thinking. All of the tips above require you to be Active, not a Passive creator!

    • themagicviolinist

      Most of the time I don’t concentrate on being inspired. It usually just happens. But every once in a while (if I’m REALLY stuck) I purposely try to get inspired.

  • Juliana Austen

    When I am feeling uninspired I check out The Write Practice! If the latest post does not do the trick I troll the back catalogue of posts until I find something. Then I set the timer and go for it. Just having an exercise seems to be enough to get going. Often it will stimulate something in my WIP, sometimes I’ll post and am always grateful for the comments. So thank you!

  • Jackie Davie

    If I’m feeling uninspired I do something that clears my head, usually baking, reading or listening to music as none of those involve needing someone else to be with me so I can leave the house!