Creative Writing: Where Does Inspiration Come From?

By February 28, 2017Writing about Writing

There’s nothing worse than feeling completely and utterly stuck. Giraffe-stuck-in-quicksand-and-going-through-the-five-stages-of-grief stuck. While you’d love to write a story, you just can’t seem to find the drive or the inspiration to write something of substance.

Inspiration is about as fickle as Lady Fate herself—coming and going without rhyme or reason, without routine or consistency, and sometimes disappearing for months on end. It is quite natural to lose creative steam after a while. We’ve all been there. What’s important is discovering ways in which to ignite the spark that has been dampened out either through burnout or writer’s block.

Burnout refers to a state of being where we are emotionally exhausted either from stress, work, or other responsibilities. During this period, the hobbies and things we used to love doing can become a bit lackluster to us. Burnout is something extremely common in writers and even more common in college students. And who in college isn’t stressed out? From finals to research papers to capstone projects to literature courses assigning a hundred or so pages to read per night, homework is certainly a cause of stress. It’s no wonder you may be too tired to even think about something that could make an interesting short story.


So how do you find your inspiration and fight against burnout?

Everyone has their own strategies—this can be seen just through performing a Google search of the terms “writer’s block” and “inspiration.” Because inspiration can hit us randomly, it’s important to make the process of finding inspiration a little easier. One of the ways this can be done is through an environment change.

How we write is influenced by where we write; the mood, atmosphere and tone of a location can influence not only scenes that we may later use in stories but can quite simply break the block of writing just through the overall change of pace.

Always writing in the same place can become a bit of a bore to some—that’s not to say this is the case for everyone, but certainly some find the same scenery to become a little tiring. Going into a cafe, or a crowded park, or even by a lakeside are great ways of offering more visuals to consider and inspire.


Here are just a few strategies that I’ve used for coming up with prompts for writing:

  • Take a look at something in your neighborhood; what are the first things you notice?
  • Write a journal of people you see in the park or on the train; what are they doing? What can you overhear in their conversation?
  • Have a conversation with a friend about some fun experiences they’ve had in high school or somewhere; their stories may become fuel for later.
  • Listen to a new type of music; how does it make you feel and what do the lyrics make you think about?

The most helpful way I’ve found for finding inspiration for writing a story is taking whatever curious image I see and asking the question of why it’s like that? “Why” and “what would happen if” are great questions that challenge your creativity and force you to think up inventive ways to solve, or think, about something. The question of “why” forces you to think about a process, and constantly asking yourself that question after each step in the brainstorming process allows you to make the connections between one step and another. Everything has a cause-and-effect relationship after all, and sometimes thinking in this way about a single idea can help you attain that inspiration that had slipped from your grasp before.

“Every writer needs to find inspiration in order to produce inspired writing, and sometimes, it can come from the unlikeliest sources,” Leo Babauta says in his article “31 Ways to Find Inspiration for Your Writing.” While most of these strategies I’ve listed apply to short stories and creative works in particular, I’m sure they can also apply to other academic works as well!

At the start, write without caring about the errors or nitpicking over the little details. Picking up the pen or cracking open that laptop is usually the very first step, so why not make that process a little more enjoyable and less drab by trying something different?