Ideas, Inspiration, Motivation, Tips

11 Sources for Writing Ideas When Your Muse Has Gone AWOL

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Gene Fowler once said, “Writing is easy. All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

This scenario is common for a lot of writers at one point or the other in their careers. You sit and stare at a computer screen for hours but you can’t come up with anything worth a damn to write about. In the absence of your muse, there are a few other places where you can find inspiration in the meantime:


1. Childhood

Your childhood is full of memories that can be tapped into for excellent story ideas. I’ve lost count of how many stories I’ve written based on something from my childhood. My hilarious over the top antics to get published when I was between 16 – 18 years old would make for a novella.

2. Friends & Family

Thinking about someone you know from within your family or circle of friends and what makes them who they are can trigger a few ideas. Observe them more closely when you hang around them. You’d be surprised at how many creative thoughts could pop into your head from this little exercise.

3. Work

Both present and past jobs can be a rich source of inspiration. Case in point The Devil Wears Prada was based on Lauren Weisberger and her friend’s experiences at their first jobs in the fashion industry. Just remember to change names and settings a little bit to avoid been sued.


4. Painful Times

Some of the greatest work from artists was borne out of a painful experience. Digging into them can be a heart rending experience but I’ve found that apart from the great writing, a healing process also takes place as you let the words out of you and onto the paper or screen.

5. Dreams

If you know how to meditate and channel your energy, you can tap into your subconscious while sleeping for some ideas. It’s as simple as taking 5 – 10 minutes to clear your mind as you fall asleep. I have gone to bed with writer’s block a lot of times then woken up the next morning with clarity and knowing exactly what I needed to write.

6. Holidays

You meet all kinds of people from around the world while on holiday. Some boring, some fascinating, some mysterious and some scary – all fodder for a good whodunit. While on vacation in Malta in 2011, I saw a man staring at me a little too intensely while I was leaning on a bridge. Subsequently, he came over and asked me a very strange question. I freaked out and took off but out of that encounter came a story entitled, “The Girl on the Bridge.”

7. Newspapers

Most newspapers and tabloids are filled with stories ranging from good to downright horrifying. Reading between the lines instead of scanning very fast can lead to a great idea. Truman Capote’s idea for In Cold Blood was borne out of an article in The New York Times in 1959.


8. Movies

Have you ever watched a movie and become exasperated at the plot lines? I can’t tell how many times I’ve watched a movie and gone, “Ok, that doesn’t make any sense. If I were the writer, I’d do this instead of that.” That usually leads to other ideas of what I’d do instead and before you know it, a story is in the making.

9. People Watching

You can tell a lot about people just from watching them talk and interact with each other, how they’re dressed, their mannerisms and their accessories. Sometimes I go to a mall, take a vantage seat and watch the world go by. It’s helped me get out of a writing rut once or twice. Tip – don’t let the people watching get too concentrated or someone might call mall security.

10. Listening to People

Earlier this year, I got an idea for a hilarious story when someone told me about a woman he was convinced was stalking him. There are times the listening isn’t that direct. It could be something overheard in a bus or while walking on the street. A writer can build an entire plot around something heard out of context somewhere.

11. Decluttering Your Home

Do you remember the last time you decluttered your home, saw something and went, “Good Lord, I still have this?” or “What on earth was I thinking?” Open up your laptop and start writing about what you found, how it became a part of your life and the story surrounding it. This can trigger an idea for a bigger story.

You might not necessarily get an entire book idea from only one of these sources but a few things you link together might be all you need for your imagination to do the rest. Have you tried any of these before? What other methods have you tried to get story ideas?

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