The Ten Best Places for Writers to Find Inspiration

Pretty much every writer will eventually reach a point where they feel like they have run out of ideas. If you want to make a living as a writer, or even a significant second income, then you will definitely face this problem. When someone starts out as a writer they will often be full of great ideas for things to write about, but gradually over time that well of interesting thoughts and ideas which you have probably built up over your life will go down, and down, until eventually it will run dry. This is particularly true for on-line content writing, a business which I have been in for around 6 years or so. That's because writing for the internet generally involves writing short or medium length articles, and also because the number of publishing opportunities is very high but the pay per article is very low compared to traditional outlets for this kind of work such as magazines. This means that to earn any decent amount of money you have to write lots of articles - quickly depleting that well of inspiration.

I have faced this problem so many times over the years that I have been forced to build up a diverse stable of 'coping strategies' which I know I can use to find inspiration for new articles. Although I personally don't write fiction, I am sure that many of these strategies will work just as well for fiction writers as for article writers like myself. Here are ten of the best places for writers to find inspiration, based on my personal experiences over these 6 years.

  • Devtome! Actually any website where large numbers of writers go to publish their work is just as good, but you are here on Devtome so that has got to be the best place to start. If you are planning to publish your work on the internet then the best place to look is probably the site you are intending to publish your work on. If you want to publish your writing on your own blog - then read other people's blogs. Reading the work of your peers is a great source of inspiration - you may directly get an idea for an article from something one of your peers mentions but doesn't fully expand upon in an article (or perhaps from a character or sub-plot in a story which you can expand upon if you are a fiction writer). Alternatively it may be less direct inspiration, like finding a new topic or style which you find interesting enough to explore.
  • Stumbleupon - This has been my own personal 'secret weapon' over the years, providing the most fertile source of inspiration as well as plenty of fun along the way. The idea behind Stumbleupon is simple - you click the stumble button and it takes you to a random webpage which another user has recommended; you then click like or dislike so the software can start to learn what kind of sites you like. You can choose topics and websites to follow, as well as other stumblers. If you are using it to find new ideas then I would recommend following a fairly wide range of topics. One of the great strengths of Stumbleupon is that you end up finding all sorts of random and interesting content which you probably wouldn't ever have come across from any other source. This helps to expand your horizons and to find new ideas and stories to research a bit more. Did I mention its also great fun?
  • Google & Twitter Trends - If you want to find out what people are interested in reading about right now, as well as keeping up to date with the latest trends, fashions and fads, then there are several websites you can go to for information on what is trending right now. Arguably the best of these is Google Trends. The Google Trends website contains a wealth of information about what is trending on Google search right now, as well has historical trends. You can choose to view what is trending in your own country, explore what's going on in other countries, or see the biggest global trends. Another interesting source of ideas is to look at what is trending on Twitter. Everyday you will find new trends and discover things you may never have heard of, but which many, many people are interested in reading about.
  • Your Friends and Family - People who you know can be one of the best sources of inspiration. If you are a fiction writer then this can be quite direct - using their quirks and habits as the basis for a character or taking their experiences and using them as the seed for a storyline. But even if you are writing non-fiction you shouldn't discount your friends and family as a source of inspiration. Consider their interests - and start discussions about them to find anything interesting they know (you should probably take care to make sure you don't come across as if you are interrogating them, just be interested in talking about their interests). Perhaps you could even be direct and ask them what they think you should write about - you may be pleasantly surprised!
  • History - This is another one which I think would be great for fiction writers, as well as non-fiction writers. What is happening in the world right now is interesting and good to write about, but its tiny in comparison to everything that has ever happened. There are so many fascinating and action packed stories in the annals of history, and there are also plenty of forgotten skills and novel perspectives on life which can provide great inspiration for articles.
  • Physical Bookshops - This is one which I only use occasionally, but which has worked well for me when I have used it. Part of the problem with finding stuff to read on the internet is that you often only find things that you are looking for, or which have been written by people similar enough to you to be using the same websites. But to be inspired you really need to be exposed to completely new and alien things. This is one of the reasons I like Stumbleupon, and another way to achieve the same objective is to wander around physical bookshops. Its much easier to browse through subjects you know nothing about and find things you wouldn't have thought to look for in a physical bookshop compared to an internet bookshop like Amazon, and there is something about the environment itself which seems to me to stimulate the imagination and get the ideas flowing.
  • Taking A Course - I have found that in order to be able to write lots of interesting and high quality articles you really need to be interested in a lot of different things, and ideally to know a little bit about them even before you start your research for a particular article. As a writer I think you should aim to the the proverbial 'jack of all trades, master of none'; you need to learn much less about a subject or skill in order to be able to write something interesting or useful about it than you need to learn to be able to actually master it. There is really no excuse these days either - there are literally thousands of free courses on the internet which will introduce you to absolutely any subject under the sun. Regularly taking courses in things you think you may find interesting - regardless of whether you intend to take it further or really try to master the subject - can be a great source of new ideas.
  • The News - I find this useful for a similar reason that I find using Google Trends useful: there is always something new. Everyday new things are happening in the world, new ideas and ventures are coming to the fore will old ones are failing, and novel perspectives are being shared in the opinion pages and comments. The sheer volume of new stories being published every day makes this a rich source of new ideas. Personally I like to leave the television news on in the background and half watch it while I am at my computer doing other things.
  • TV Debate and Talk Shows - I have always found that that television debate shows are a great source of inspiration for opinion pieces. Sometimes I hear someone putting forward a new perspective or sharing new information that I wasn't aware of, but more often than not I get inspired because disagreeing with the idiotic things people say brings out my own opinions and helps me to form them in my mind more clearly. I find that I have opinions about things that I really never realized I cared about before.
  • Boredom - Inspiration rarely comes to you when you are really busy doing other things. So if you want to encourage the muse to come, you shouldn't be afraid to be bored every now and then. A few idle moments of daydreaming can work wonders for the imagination.

And as an added extra, number 11 of 10, they always say you should write what you know: so if you are suffering from writer's block and nothing seems to help you get past it, then just write something about the experience of having writer's block!

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