Inspiration: Where does it come from?


If you’re a writer, you’ve almost certainly wondered “where do ideas come from?” Once you’ve been around for a little while, you’ve probably been asked that same question. It might seem like a really simple question to answer at first: Ideas come from inside my head.

But they don’t always, do they? Sometimes I have so many story ideas that I can’t note them down quickly enough. Other times, I can go weeks (months!) without a single decent idea forming between my ears. I agonized about this quite a lot over the past three months, where it seemed like my brain was a barren desert, and what few ideas blew out on the dry breeze were desiccated things devoid of life.

I started to panic. I’m a writer, but how can I create great fiction if I can’t come up with ideas? I’ve never been in this position before. What could I do?

Well, I took some calming breaths, and drank a few glasses of calming wine, and gave myself permission to not have ideas.

That sounds crazy, I know. But it worked for me. I backed off, took the pressure off, and picked up one of my all-time favorite fantasy novels (Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson). I dug a notebook out of my desk, attached a pen, and read.

I played some great video games (Grim Dawn, guys, it’s the bastard love child of Diablo II and Fallout and I’m deeply in love), I even watched a Ken Burns documentary on the American Civil War with my husband.

And the ideas started to flow. Thick, fast, and hot. I accepted them all. Wrote them all down without judgement or criticism. I thanked my brain for each idea, accepting it for what it was, and made room for the next one.

I now have 16 pages of notes for a fantasy epic I’m going to start writing in the near future.

I think the bottom line here is that ideas don’t come out of your brain, they come from outside and get mixed together inside your brain. You can’t expect to keep drawing from the well without filling it up. Read great books, watch interesting TV, play fun games. And accept your ideas when they arrive. You don’t have to use them, but don’t reject them out of hand without consideration.

I hope this helps you find some inspiration. 

I love hearing back from you, so please feel free to share your favorite methods for generating ideas in the comments.

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