Shelley Widhalm

Sources of Writing Inspiration

In 52 Writing Topics, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on October 21, 2012 at 11:00 am

If you’re bored with or tired of writing, or don’t know what to write, how do you get started?

There are multitudinous ways to find inspiration, or that little push to ignite your pen, or laptop, or whatever tool you use.

But if you wait for inspiration, you’ll never write.

Or almost never.

With me, a snippet of a certain song, the twang of leaves caterwauling down the street or a brush of sunset colors over the mountains excite the imagination. I write the first line and the next, almost as if I were diving into a poem or a description to capture that brief feeling.

These small moments, however, prove unreliable, so I turn to my tools of searching out the initial spark or toe bounce for the word dive.

Inspiration can come from books, music, the natural and manmade worlds, and human nature.

With books, a description or the way something is phrased can give you a starting point. How could you describe the setting or character differently from the writer? What words would you use that he or she didn’t? Take this description and turn it into a basis for a scene or character identity.

Music of all genres also can be inspiring, both through the moods the songs evoke and the words, beats and melodies they express. I don’t know how but certain songs of Enja’s compel me to write poetry – I like the lyrical style and repetitive phrasing, making it easy for me to get lost in my own writing while being observant of the music’s rhythm.

To find inspiration from human nature, try hanging out where people like to congregate and do some eavesdropping. Try coffee shops, restaurants, malls, lounges, airport terminals and beaches.

As for finding inspiration in nature, sit next to a flower bed and describe what you see, the weather and the look of the sky, using all of the senses. Try a mini-writing field trip in the mountains, an arboretum or public garden, or the city streetscape where there are benches, potted plants, trees and sidewalk gardens.

While you stage your inspiration, amplify your awareness of what’s around you, using all of the senses – sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell – when making observations. Describe things around you as you see them or as they are happening. Or make a list of descriptive words, and then play around with the individual words to see if maybe a poem will result.

Writing often can show you that you have more to say about a topic than you realized, releasing you from that feeling of being stuck. Instead of waiting for inspiration to give you something to write, write to discover what you have to say.

  1. For the real writer it’s ALL grist for the mill, isn’t it? Great stuff, Shelley!

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