Thursday, October 28, 2010

GUEST POST: K.M. Weiland on 13 Places to Find Inspiration

People are always asking writers where they get their ideas. My typically trite reply is, “Everywhere.” I once grabbed a kitchen towel and told someone, “I could write a story about this towel if I wanted to.” While that response was likely a bit extreme (I could write a story about a kitchen towel, but I couldn’t guarantee that it’d be interesting!), it is true that inspiration is all around us. As I explain in my recently released CD Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration (, inspiration is always there for the taking. We just have to figure out where the harvest is ripest. Following are some places where we’re always sure to find inspiration:
  1. Dreams. Pay attention to the vivid imagery and the bizarre juxtaposition of your dreams. Perhaps even start a dream journal.
  2. Movies. The visual/auditory combination of movies and theater has something to offer just about everyone. View movies as more than just entertainment; consider them idea labs.
  3. Paintings. Great artistic ventures offer us the emotional high points of human history. Visit an art museum and study the paintings to figure out what draws you, what repulses you, and what leaves you cold.
  4. Music. Music is the arguably the purest form of storytelling, since it taps directly into our emotional core, without even the necessity of words. Find an instrumental song and see if you can write out the story it’s trying to tell.
  5. Life. Even if you don’t want to write about your own life, never discount the value of your experiences. Live widely and live deeply.
  6. Nature. The virtue, the violence, the vibrancy, and the variety of the natural world is a never-ending well of possible story ideas.
  7. Books. As writers we feed off each other, gaining and giving in a never-ending cycle. Read voraciously; it’s the best way to study the craft.
  8. Dictionary. If you’re stumped for a new story idea or for a way to progress your plot, open your dictionary to a random page for an instant story prompt. Pick a word and see where it takes you.
  9. History. Even if you don’t write historical fiction, history, as a recording of all of human experience, is rife with story ideas. At the very least, understanding history can bring a broader understanding of life and its truths to our work.
  10. Exercise. Who says writers need to be pudgy desk jockeys? Get out there and pump some blood. Your brain works better when the rest of your body is moving.
  11. Shower. Need a good idea? Just add water! Writers should just take up permanent residence in the shower. Something about that warm, running water is always good for jumpstarting creativity.
  12. Curiosity. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it’s what puts bread on the writer’s table. Never stop asking questions—especially what if?
  13. Eavesdropping. Join the writer club and you get a special exemption card that allows you to eavesdrop with impunity. Who knows what juicy tidbits you’ll pick up on your next jaunt to the grocery store.
Of course, this little list isn’t anywhere close to exhaustive. But hopefully it serves as a reminder for us to keep our eyes and ears and imaginations wide open wherever we go. Inspiration is waiting. All we have to do is find it.

K.M. Weiland
K.M. Weiland writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in the sandhills of western Nebraska. She enjoys mentoring other authors through her writing tips, editing services, workshops, and her recently released instructional CD Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration.


Unknown said...

Thanks so much for hosting me today, Matt!

Josh said...

I second the shower. Strange as it sounds, it never fails to clear my head and open my mind to ideas. A great list!

Unknown said...

I end up with lots of thunderstorm scenes as the result of shower inspiration!

Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

Regarding point #8, have you read O. Henry's "The Girl and the Habit"?

Unknown said...

Nope, but I'll go give it a read! Thanks for the link.

RED~Scribe said...

I can so relate to points 1, 4 and 11. I've written several stories based off dreams I've had; music is always an excellent source of inspiration, whether instrumental or not; and definitely the shower! Every writer should have a waterproof pad of paper and pen in the shower.

Unknown said...

I haven't progressed to a waterproof pad and pen yet, although I have seen some interesting inventions along that line!