There’s this persistent idea that a writer can’t write without inspiration. While this may not be entirely true, inspiration certainly helps them do their best work.
So what do you do when you’re feeling uninspired and you’ve run out of ideas?
That’s the question that many writers simply don’t have an answer to. They don’t have a creative backup plan.
You see, it’s okay to run out of ideas — but staying out of them is a choice. When your creativity is drained, it’s time to seek out inspiration and find things to write about.
“I think of myself as a bad writer with big ideas, but I’d rather be that than a big writer with bad ideas.” — Michael Moorcock
The truth is, writers like to embellish — in fact, it’s part of the job. That’s why you’ll often hear a writer or a great author pretend as though their best stories just sort of came to them fully formed. In reality, writing fairies don’t sprinkle words onto paper for authors. It’s just a lot less glamorous to say that you sat in a chair or on a couch for three or four hours thinking and researching before you identified what it is you were burning to write.
To help save you time, we’ve compiled a list of 10 things to write about when you’re feeling uninspired and out of ideas. Whether you’re a poet, a nonfiction writer, a fiction writer, or you just enjoy journaling, we’ve got something to give you a boost.
Without further ado, let’s see what sparks your next creative writing idea!
Things to Write About When You’re Feeling Uninspired
Get inspired by music
“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” — Victor Hugo
Is there anything in the world that has the ability to trigger nostalgia and memory quite like music? Turn on a song that reminds you of a particular moment in your life. Or turn on a song that makes you feel something deeply for no reason other than the journey the notes, lyrics, and the instruments take you on. If playing music with lyrics distracts you as you write, try turning on movie scores from composers like the late James Horner or Thomas Newman. Personally, The Doors, Otis Redding, Tom Waits, Al Green, The Mamas and The Papas, The Eagles, Jeff Buckley, Jose Feliciano, and Fleetwood Mac never fail to inspire me when I’m trying to get in the mood to write poetry. See what artists and bands work for you!
Travel with your words
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” — Marcel Proust
Right up there next to music, we’re most inspired by the things we see. Think about the places you’ve been or the places you dream of going to. What did you enjoy about it? What little details caught your attention? Most importantly, how did the place change you? Also, remember: places, if given proper attention, can become characters in your stories. Places are one of the most fun things to write about because they contain history, politics, art, tragedy, triumph, and so many other elements all at once.
Interview people who interest you
“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.” — Marcus Aurelius
A story is always only going to be as compelling as the characters in it. Instead of relying purely on your own creativity to come up with stories, think about the people you know who interest you. After all, sometimes the truth really is stranger than fiction. Once you begin interviewing them, you will hear details that are richer than anything you would have imagined. Whether you’re talking to a war veteran, a successful entrepreneur, or someone who simply stepped off the beaten path, you’ll find that everyone has a story to tell. Be sure to prepare interview questions beforehand and if you plan on using their story, ask permission — otherwise, you can always infuse your characters with subtle parts of their characteristics.
Write about your hopes and dreams
“We dream to give ourselves hope. To stop dreaming — well, that’s like saying you can never change your fate.” — Amy Tan
Another exciting thing to write about is your hopes and dreams. Hopes and dreams are often what keeps us going when life gets difficult and the hard times come crashing down on us. The bigger and crazier the dream is, the better! The other reason this is such a great thing to write about is that it gives you a chance to be introspective. When you write your goals and visions down, it causes you to reflect on them and to see how serious you are about turning them into a reality. In other words, it’ll make you think, do I really want this? The last big benefit of this writing exercise is that it gives you a chance to break up your routine. It’s easy to neglect your dreams and lose sight of them in the middle of the hectic day-to-day grind. Remind yourself what gives you joy.
Reinvent a memory
“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.” — Haruki Murakami
Take a childhood memory or a moment that made an impact on you for better or worse and reinvent it. Instead of staying quiet, imagine if you said what you were really thinking. How would things have turned out differently? What if you had told that boy or girl that you wanted to go out on a date? What if your parents hadn’t gotten divorced? Whatever event you end up reinventing will give you plenty to write about. You may also find that it ends up being therapeutic and revelatory. You may uncover trauma or unexplored desires in the process.
Use writing exercises and prompts
“Creativity is the brain’s invisible muscle — that when used and exercised routinely — becomes better and stronger.” — Ashley Ormon
Whenever the ink runs dry, try using writing exercises and prompts to get your ideas flowing again. Whether you’re browsing through social media or trying out a list of writing exercises, inspiration is just around the corner!
Journal about your day
“Journal writing is a voyage to the interior.” — Christina Baldwin
The practice of journaling is beneficial for a number of reasons. For example, journaling can help you exercise gratitude, document the beautiful parts of your life, sort through the hard times, and express how you actually feel without external judgment. After you’re done filling up the pages of your journal, you’ll have a written scrapbook of your life!
Write about who you want to be
“When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away — even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.” — Kurt Vonnegut
One of the coolest things to write about is daydreaming about who you want to be. For example, in real life, there are only so many hours in a day, which means you probably haven’t been able to master every skill you want to. But what’s to stop you from re-envisioning your life? And then, if you want it badly enough, who’s to say you can’t pivot and go for that vision? Write about being that guitar playing, songwriting, skateboarding digital nomad free of judgment and worries.
Read, read, read, and read some more
“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” — Stephen King
When in doubt, read it out. Okay, so maybe that’s not an expression — but it should be. When you feel uninspired, look for stories or words that move you. Analyze why they move you and try to emulate it with your own twist.
Watch a movie or episodic series
“It’s funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you watch them on a screen.” — Anthony Burgess
This one is the same principle as drawing inspiration from books and other authors. Next time you’re out of ideas, turn on Netflix or another streaming service and watch a show that gives you that sensation of creative envy — the sensation of “I wish I’d written this!” In fact, I’ve used this writing exercise myself. The show Californication was the reason why I wrote Falling Up in The City of Angels. Some other inspirations of mine include Penny Dreadful, Vikings, and Big Fish, which was what Spellbound Under The Spanish Moss stemmed from in many ways.
What inspires you? Let us know in the comments!
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People Also Ask These Questions About Things to Write About
Q: What are some good things to write about?
Good things to write about are things that make you feel something. Whether that’s happiness, joy, sadness, grief, or humor, it’s all good as long as it inspires you to put words down on a page.
Q: What are some good things to write about when you’re bored?
Some good things to write about when you’re bored are topics that you’re passionate about. If you’re not sure what you’re passionate about, then writing is actually the perfect way to reflect on that until you’ve come up with an answer.
Q: What are good things to write about in a journal?
Good things to write about in a journal usually come from real life events and moments. For example, you could write about something that made you happy today or a random thought that occurred to you or you could document that lucid dream you had last night.
Q: What are good things to write about for kids?
Good things for kids to write about include anything that gets them excited to write and doesn’t make it feel like a chore or homework. For example, ask them to write about their favorite memory, their favorite sport, or their favorite place they’ve ever been.