If you love to write, then you understand the struggle to constantly find inspiration that will take you to greater heights.
When you Google the phrase “writing inspiration,” you will be bombarded with all manner of links on quotes, helpful aids, ideas, and case studies that will help you find inspiration as a writer.
I work as a full-time professional freelance writer. More often than not, I have to come up with my own ideas – from scratch. In all honesty, that is the worst part of my job.
Because of the sheer volume of articles that I tend to handle on a monthly basis, there comes a time when my brain just goes on strike. When that happens, everything comes to a screeching halt. No longer will ideas flow in my head. Even with subjects I write about on a regular basis, I get nothing.
When that happens, I have to force myself to take a step back. A brain freeze is usually a sign that I need to find new sources of inspiration. If you work for long enough as a writer, you too will probably come across a similar challenge.
The regular search-engine research method will not work anymore.
Over the last few years, I have become quite resourceful. Experience has taught me that it is possible to get writing inspiration in unconventional ways and places, if only I keep an open mind.
So, what do I do? Let me tell you about the four ways I find inspiration off the beaten path.
I am a huge fan of my local children’s home. I usually try to visit the home at least every six weeks or so. It gives me great joy to go see the kids, many of whom are orphans or were abandoned as infants. Some of them are children rescued from abusive homes, and their stories would break your heart.
I tend to have a change of perspective whenever I visit the home. There is something about these visits that forces me to view the world in a different way. I have learned that life is not always black and white; it’s shades of grey. And people have problems I know nothing about.
To put it simply, I have expanded my view of the world based on new things that I experience each time I visit my local children’s home. And this change in perspective usually enables me to come up with new slants on old topics that have seemingly been done to death.
In addition, there are always new stories that I get to hear whenever I visit the home. These too provide new ideas on issues affecting society for me to explore.
Volunteering at my local children’s rescue home has provided me with many ideas for articles to do with the human condition and the problems that afflict the society that I live in.
One way to gain inspiration is to volunteer for your charity organization of choice and pay attention to what’s going on around you, as well as taking time to listen to people’s stories. It’s amazing what you can find out when you come out of your bubble and begin to pay attention to other people and their problems. Some of the questions you might ask will not only inspire you but can be an inspiration by educating your audience.
The three listed subject matters are not new – these problems have always existed. However, by exposing myself to these experiences, I was able to come up with new slants on the subject that I would never have thought of by myself.
You never know — what you share could end up inspiring a significant shift in the way people view an issue that you are passionate about.
I am a homebody and therefore try to avoid going out as much as possible.
However, desperate times call for desperate measures. When I hit a mental wall, I make an effort to go out.
Going out in this case refers to leaving my hometown and commuting to my capital city, Nairobi, about an hour away (this time is dependent on the weather, traffic, and how crazy Kenyan drivers feel on a particular day).
Because my work life is usually rigidly scheduled, I always ensure that my day out is organized with flexibility in mind. Being open to whatever may come my way primes my mind to find inspiration for writing.
Activities on my day out range from shopping to sitting out in a public park where I people watch.
If there is an exhibition, I usually try to attend it just to satisfy my curiosity. Exhibition halls and grounds tend to bring about a lot of writing inspiration ideas because they expose you to other people’s creative products. Trying to figure out another creative person’s thought processes can be a great source of inspiration.
There is also something to be said for being amidst crowds, considering that writing is such a solitary career. Being where the action is usually gives me lots of ideas. The people, noises, smells, and feel of the places all serve to inspire me.
So, how does going out affect my thinking? What ideas do I usually come up with?
See? That’s four articles right there! When considering where to get writing inspiration, a change of scenery will always get your mind all revved up, and you will find the ideas that you seek.
You do not have to travel far. You could go to a local exhibition, a farmer’s market, or even an artisan’s open-air market. What matters is that you expose yourself to new experiences that will get your creative juices flowing.
I work indoors a lot, and sometimes I forget to stop and rest. Temporary brain freezes are great because they force me to stop and give my body the mental rest that it needs.
I always take advantage of those rests to sunbathe; I live in Kenya after all. We have plenty of sunshine for that purpose — most days of the year.
I tend to take short breaks because they are great for my mind. They help ensure I keep fatigue at bay, thus allowing me to come up with lots of ideas. These breaks also allow me to look at my surroundings with new eyes and get additional inspiration for my writing.
I have come up with all sorts of ideas inspired by getting my daily dose of vitamin D.
Clearly, you do not always need to go far to find inspiration for your articles. The good news is your own backyard is far enough. Be that subtle nosy neighbor that watches the goings-on in your neighborhood and find inspiration. For example, why is that neighbor always puttering around gardening? And is gardening good for the health of retirees? What does science say?
See how easy that was?
Learning is part of writing. That’s why I spend a lot of time reading e-books and blogs written by experts in my field as well as listening to podcasts.
I am not choosy. I read blogs by leading e-book fiction writers like Konrath and content marketing articles by the likes of Neil Patel. I also listen to Tim Ferriss’ podcasts since I would like to use my writing skills to enable me to achieve financial independence and travel someday. As long as there is something to learn, I am all for it.
However, I am usually just as interested in the comments and forum sections as I am in the content that I read. The people who comment are people like me, and sometimes they form my target audience.
I am usually interested in learning what they think or feel about certain topics. How people react usually gives me interesting slants on topics that I thought were done to death.
So, what kind of inspiration can you find in online platforms and the comments section?
Comments and forums are rich with ideas, so there’s nothing stopping you from mining them for inspiration.
Should you choose to find inspiration in this manner, concentrate on comments that bring about debate and spur additional comments on the subjects under discussion. This is because you would likely have stumbled upon a comment that touches on a pain point that bugs many people. And tackling the issue means you would be solving a problem for a large audience.
My freelance writing career has taught me to do the unconventional by thinking outside the box. For instance, you should be ready to adapt to your changing mental needs. Use whatever stimulation is around you, instead of forcing yourself to write generic articles you have no interest in.
When you are uninspired, your audience will notice. That’s because your work will be shoddy and lifeless.
It goes without saying that there is no one way to find writing inspiration. What works for me today may not work for me tomorrow. Also, what works for me may not work for you in its entirety. When one option fails, I simply try something else. I recommend that you do the same.
Once you become resourceful in finding inspiration wherever you are at, all you need is a slight change of location or perspective for your brain to recharge. The days of brain strikes and freezes that last for weeks on end will be over. You will always have endless material to work with. How great is that?
What are you waiting for? Go on and be inspired!
Ellie Matama is a Kenyan-based freelance writer. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, watching cooking shows, and fantasizing about global travels. You can reach her via LinkedIn.