How To Find Story Ideas When You Feel Uninspired

You’re staring at a blank screen. You want to write a piece for your blog, for your writing class, or your writing project, but your fingers remain motionless on the keyboard. You know you must have something to say, but the words just won’t come. What do you do? Maybe you should give up; you’re not a “real” writer anyway, right?

Wrong!

If you’re one of the many who have difficulty getting started, here’s a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

keep a story idea file

I learned this in a writing class years ago, and it’s my personal favorite. Get an accordion file (or you can use a file drawer) and start collecting items of interest from the newspaper and magazines. It could be an article on a topic of interest, a picture, or even a potential character name. Or maybe it’s the location of the story that intrigues you. Get in the habit of writing notes when an idea hits you, and add these to the file as well. You can also include your own photographs that might spark an idea.

Add to your file regularly. I like the portability of an accordion file, and I’ve labeled each section in mine to help keep it organized. It won’t do you any good to collect items and not be able to find them when you want them, so develop a system that works for you.

people watch

try to collect ideas and character sketches from people you encounter in everyday life. You can start with your family and friends. Everyone knows someone who would make a great story character. If you live in a busy neighborhood, sit outside and listen and watch the activity around you. Take pictures as well. Or go to a coffee shop and observe people as you enjoy a mocha latte′. Take notes on traits or speech you find interesting. Get in the habit of noticing people you encounter throughout your day, whether it’s co-workers, the lady at the dry-cleaners, or the guy who comes to fix your leaky faucet. They all have the potential to become a fascinating character in your next writing piece.

use a writing prompt

One of my favorites is at Writer’s Digest. (http://www.writersdigest.com/TipsPrompts)

There you’ll find a daily writing tip and a writing prompt to create a 500 word (or less) piece, which you can post online at their site if you choose to do so. There is also a list of additional writing prompts for you to peruse. Try this a few times and it should generate some new thoughts.

keep a notepad and pen by the bed

What the heck was that dream about?

When you awaken, write down anything you can remember from your dreams. It doesn’t have to make any sense to be a potential story idea.

stream of consciousness

Sit quietly in a room for thirty minutes with nothing but a pen and paper. Write whatever comes into your mind. Again, it doesn’t have to make any sense or even be written in complete sentences.  If you are having trouble, pick a topic and write whatever comes into your head about that topic. You can go back later and glean writing ideas from whatever you’ve written. (You can add these to your story file for future reference).

Write back and share what sparks your writing ideas.

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11 responses to this post.

  1. For some people visual stimuli works–look at photos of people and places and try to concoct a piece around them.

    And I have a friend that composes stories to music. The actual songs inspire writing.

    Reply

  2. Posted by telcontarrulz on April 19, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I have an idea notebook which is quite easy to carry around, although it’s not easy to keep pictures in it.

    The excerpt in my blog was a snippet in the middle of my novel. The beginning is yet unwritten.

    Reply

  3. Thanks, Nancy. I have used some of these. I tend to write many ideas down and then talk myself out of them. Thanks also, for your insightful question on my blog.

    Reply

  4. For me, I get inspired by the people I talk to.

    For example, my cousin lives in a low rent section of town, St-Henri, Montreal, and she told me that her neighbourhood was built on top of an old garbage dump from the early 1900’s I guess. The walls are starting to tilt a bit. Not so much that the doors will no longer close, but enough to notice that the angles are no longer square. Imagine something magical happening in a place like this.

    She also told me about someone she knows that has a dog named, Elvis. How can you not try to include this in a story.

    BTW, I have tagged you.

    Reply

  5. Posted by ridgewalker on April 22, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    People watching is one of my favorite. Sitting in a cafe, Starbucks etc. and listening in on a conversation and jotting it down is one of my favorite things.

    Reply

  6. I love to eavesdrop on people… often I find they have expressions, topics… cares, worries, laughs, jokes… that inspire me.

    Of course, don’t stare too hard 🙂

    Reply

  7. Same here. I like to overhear interesting snippets of conversation and try to imagine how they would sound in the mouths of my characters. 😉 I’m adding you to my links list, hope you don’t mind.

    Reply

  8. Nancy, thanks for the link to my site, fictionality. I appreciate your interest and I’m looking forward to browsing through your site. I will return the honor because I like what I see so far. In fact, this post in particular is really great. I have a notebook that I carry around with me for notes and ideas that come up all the time. Influences and inspiration are everywhere and I don’t want to miss/forget any. And a notebook has been a fixture on my nightstand for a long time. Thanks.
    Roland

    Reply

  9. Good suggestions! I’ll have to try a few.

    Re: your first paragraph. I find that I no longer sit in front of my computer and force myself to write. In more recent times, I only sit down to write when I have something to say.

    Reply

  10. Posted by Jawad Sukhanyar on March 14, 2012 at 5:55 am

    I got plenty of ideas now, Thanks for guiding us. There some human interest stories which we can write about. thanks
    J. S

    Reply

  11. nice post, saya memang selalu bingung ketika mau membuat artikel namun ide yang sudah saya persiapkan lupa begitu saja.

    Reply

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