By Kris Maze
Writing Inspiration arrives like a lightning bolt and disappears like a mist, but we can replenish this elusive entity each day with our surroundings. When I examined my workspace for writing ‘fuel’, I found many ways it helps me coax the words onto the page.
13 Ways I’m Already Surrounded by Writing Inspiration
Below are thirteen of my “writing vitamins.” These are items that inspire me, or boost my productivity. Many are tangible reasons of why I keep writing. In the meantime, I’ll sit and wonder which of these you can relate to. Hopefully, you will share in the comments how you curate your own writing inspiration.
1. Photos of my People
I have photos of family and friends posted around my work calendar. It keeps joy in my writing process. Details in pictures can also become a key part of a scene and sometimes those bits of inspiration take on their own life on the written page.
In a short story I submitted to the NYCMidnight contest, I created a futuristic Supergirl character from a picture of my young niece wearing a black leather jacket and aviator sunglasses. It was fun to write and my niece thought it was cool to have her own story. If your writing is stuck, perhaps your own pictures can be sources of inspiration.
2. Artwork or Images
Whether it’s a 3rd-grade sculpture from my kid, or an Instagram picture I couldn’t part with, I surround myself with idea-packed items that can evoke emotions.
One item in my writing nook I procured at an antique store is a raven. A rare outing as stores opened after COVID lockdowns, I bought the bird statue for $13 and left the price tag around its thin ankle. Perched on a shelf before old editions of Poe, Dickens, and The Lord of the Flies, its eyes are a piercing reminder to carefully craft my words, holding stories waiting to be unlocked. In one glance I am back to work, writing away.
Our furry and feathered family members can aid us when we are discouraged, and our words are not flowing as we like. They can sense our frustration before we fully realize it and bring comfort as they curl up at our feet or stretch across our laps.
But, of course, they can bring chaos to the process as well. See #4 below for an example.
4. Pets Redux
Our pets can also add a distraction factor to our writing process, at times bad enough to wonder why we didn’t buy a goldfish instead. My German Shepherd is a typical high energy, smart-as-a-whip pooch, always wanting to establish her place in the family as one of the people. She even figured out how all the doorknobs and handles work, letting herself out at will until we added additional deadbolts and latches to absolutely everything.
Our pooch also realized our family likes books and on one unattended, quiet afternoon, she perused my collection of used botany books. Pulling a few from a lower shelf, she decided to ‘read’ one. See Exhibit A:
After an initial scolding, I remembered how a mischievous pet can make a good sidekick in a story and worked on my main character’s relationship with her dog. Love them or tolerate them, pets are a part of our lives and can inspire our stories.
5. Used Books
A secondary inspiration from my dog’s attempt at reading led me to reexamine that book. My research on plants halted months ago when other job commitments took precedence in my life, leaving many shelved books gathering dust, but what my German Shepherd discovered was an incredible find. In “Seed to Seed, The Secret Life of Plants”, a handwritten note on an old-school “Due Date” library slip was glued to the inside cover. It blew my writer mind to find a hidden note.
See Exhibit B:
Are you a flower?
Because my love for you is blooming.
By – anonymous love stricken student?
I looked over the book, once housed in a Texas High School Library, and questions rolled through my mind. I pieced together an imagined backstory. Who wrote this secret note? Was it a cheeky side comment or an elaborate setup for a date to the prom? Did the intended ever see this message or was it a love unrequited? Why was it deleted? I added these juicy ideas to a problematic scene in a working manuscript, adding spice to an otherwise dull chapter.
Inspired, I checked other used books in my collection and found more treasures. Bookmarks and old receipts. Pressed flowers, concert ticket stubs, and invitations. Hidden treasures lost when sent unboxed to a rummage sale, or shipped across the globe, unknown stories waiting for writers like us to give them life.
If you are like me, you get the Spring Cleaning Itch. After a year of extra people in the house, of spring blossoms leaving sneezy pollen on most surfaces, trying to work in an environment that is messy can distract even the most productive writer.
Perhaps your writing won’t be derailed by the need to clean, but maybe you are distracted and uninspired. Either way, I find that I drop into the digital rabbit hole way too often in situations like these and can offer a suggestion. Taking a writing break to play Candy Crush can lead to guilt and a big time suck (*guilty!*). But there are many online resources you can tap into instead. Resources that can improve your writing knowledge.
Try a podcast instead. Most podcast streaming services offer gems like author interviews and craft advice via a simple search. You can listen “on demand.”
So, put on those headphones and “clean” the house, puttering around until you are ready to work on the words once again. Building up your writing skills by listening to other authors’ insights is an inspirational way to hone your writer’s chops.
I have a kitchen timer sitting on my desk, to help me out when my muse is on her coffee break. Sometimes adding an audible ticking of time passing can kick my writing into gear.
C.K. McDonnell, a comedy-thriller writer living in the UK, said in a podcast interview of Writer’s Routine, that he never waits for the muse, but views writing like any other job, doing what it takes to create the pages and complete the work. But when it is hard to focus, he will use the Pomodoro Method, setting a timer and writing until the session is through. Using this method has helped him to make deadlines and maintain a regular work-life balance.
In this interview, McDonnell also referred to his feelings about the words he finished each day, saying that he will often have to rethink his emotions about his day’s work. His view of the completed work varies from doubtful to fantastic, but he says he has a process that made him realize how arbitrary his perceptions can be.
McDonnell starts off each writing session by reading the work from the day before. Not only does this prime his thinking for the next part of his writing, but he also sees the work with fresh eyes. This showed him how his writing is consistent and of like quality, even when he felt it was crappy after finishing it. Re-reading his work the next day kept him from losing ground with unneeded re-writes and second guessing his craft.
It makes him a prolific writer as he produces a book nearly every 6 months. Timers can add a nudge when you can’t get a jump-start any other way. If that fails, you should read my very effective Reason #9.
When the Pacific Northwest spring hits, it slowly rolls out the lush flowers and sunny warm afternoons. Interspersed with long stretches of rain-filled cloudy dampness, one can turn to the benefits of a warm cup of Joe to keep the words flowing. There is a reason many coffee roasters come from this area and it’s the birthplace of Starbucks!
But when my writerly sense can no longer override the foggy chill as inspiration to rewrite Sleepy Hollow or to mentally transport to London town, I get a toasty mug of tea. Some of my favorites are Twinning Earl Grey and Harney & So