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  • Writer's pictureDebra Stang

10 Sources of Inspiration for Writers

I'm usually a pretty steady writer. I enjoy the process of putting words together until they sound just the way I want them to, and I'm very grateful that I can make a living doing something so close to my heart.

But sometimes I just hit a wall. The words stop flowing, and each phrase that pops into my mind sounds crappier than the one before it. The well has officially run dry.

Unfortunately, the hours and minutes until my deadline keep right on ticking away. I have to get my inspiration back, and fast!

But how?

1. Read something that's very well-written.

Depending upon my mood, my favorites are Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Victor Hugo, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. If they can write prose and poetry that sings like that, I tell myself, I can surely slog my way through one more blog post.

2. Read something that's…really…not that well written.

On some days, reading the words of the masters does not have its intended effect. Instead of becoming inspired, I sink even lower. "I'll never write like that," I tell myself. "So why bother?" On those days, it helps to pull out the worst books I've ever read. I cherish each awkward phrase as it clangs against my ear. If someone like that can write a bestselling novel, maybe someday I'll be able to do the same.

3. Sit outside and watch people.

Like most other writers I know, I love to watch people in public places. I'm fascinated by the way they move through the world and the way they interact with others. Sometimes it helps to focus on just one person and pretend that he or she is my audience. How would I talk to her? What words would I use to help him understand a complicated issue?

4. Talk to another writer.

I'm lucky that several of my closest friends are also writers. I can commiserate with them, and together we can brainstorm ways to get my stalled project back on track. Sometimes I use their advice and sometimes not, but the very process of talking things through often clears the way for ideas that I would never have come up with before our impromptu therapy session.

5. Check bank account balance.

A very low bank account balance is fabulous inspiration. When the numbers are low, the words seem to flow!

6. Read inspirational quotations. 

I keep a collection of quotes for writers on hand. They're a quick pick-me-up when I'm having a bad day. A couple of my favorites include

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold tale inside you." – Maya Angelou


"[E]verything is writable if you have the outgoing guts to do it and the imagination to improvise." – Sylvia Plath

7. Bribe the muse.

My muse is a moody little sprite. She gets bored very easily when I'm working on articles about business or healthcare. I can sometimes woo her back if I promise to devote extra time to one of my own projects just as soon as I get my daily assignments out of the way.

8. Switch projects.

I'm usually fortunate enough to have several writing and editing projects going at once. If I absolutely can't force myself to work on one, it may help to switch to another for an hour or so. By then my creative juices are flowing again and I can get back to work on the original assignment.

9. Finish a task, any task.

Finishing a project or a task, no matter how small, does wonders for both my mood and ego and inspires me to keep on going.

10. Use brute force.

This is my least favorite option. I'd far rather get back in the "mood" for writing, but if an assignment is approaching a deadline and I can't get inspired, my only choice is to plant myself in my chair and stay there until the work is done. But I can't complain too much. I've never been in a job that allowed me to do only what I felt like doing. In fact, nobody I know has been in a job like that.

Besides, in spite of its challenges, writing is still my first love.

What do you do when you can't get inspired to write?

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