We’ve all heard it: In order to succeed as a writer, you have to write every day. But what happens if you’re just stuck?
Writer’s block is a vicious beast—it can make you feel like you’ve completely lost your touch and that you’ll never manage to get the words to come again.
Sometimes breaking through is as simple as skipping forward a few steps in your book—write the next chapter or scene, or jump to the next section in your nonfiction outline.
Sometimes, though, we get stuck longer.
Rather than getting frustrated, try taking a break from whatever project you’re working on and writing something different. Look around you for inspiration from your everyday life. The world is chock-full of interesting things to write about—you just have to prime the creative pump, and before you know it, the words will be flowing free.
Look up from your screen (when you’re done reading this post, of course!) and give one of these sources of inspiration a try…
1. Look out the Window
Let’s start small. You don’t even have to get up to find inspiration! Find the nearest window. Look out. Start a short story about the first moving thing you see. Where is it going? Where’s it coming from? What’s its motivation?
2. Pick up a Book
Grab a nearby book. Open to a random page. Start a new story with the first quote your eye lands on. And yes, even “It was a dark and stormy night” can be the start of something new and interesting!
3. Flip through Old Pictures
Look through pictures of your last trip. Find one that catches your eye, then write about that day. This could turn into a short story, a brief memoir vignette, or a nonfiction passage about travel in the place you visited. See where your creativity takes you.
4. Go to the Thrift Store
Visit your local thrift shop and find some weird, interesting item—the stranger, the better. If you have a hard time believing someone ever owned it, it’s perfect! Work that item into a short story.
5. Gather Your Change
How much change do you have on you? Tell a story about that. Again, this could be fiction or nonfiction—maybe you can write about the process of creating coins or how physical money is becoming a thing of the past; if you’re a fiction writer, craft a story about how someone ended up with precisely 37 cents in their pocket or describe a day in the life of a penny.
6. Honor a Hand-Me-Down
We all have hand-me-downs—cherished antiques or weird knickknacks someone gave us. Pick one in your life and write about it. Maybe it’s the beautiful sideboard your aunt left you; maybe it’s that chipped mug from your youth that’s ugly as heck, but you can’t bear to get rid of because you remember your dad drinking coffee from it every morning. Tell the story of that object.
7. Empty Your Wallet
Okay, so you already checked out your change. What receipts do you have on you? Grab one at random and jot down the first item that catches your eye. Great! Time for a nonfiction piece about the origins of the whiteboard, or a short story featuring two cappuccinos and a medium Caesar salad.
8. Turn on the TV
This one seems pretty counter-intuitive. After all, most of us waste a lot of time when we could be writing (or doing, well, just about anything else) watching TV. But sometimes, the TV can be a great source of inspiration! Just don’t stick to one channel. Grab the remote, then flick through the channels. I find the best way to randomize my results is to pick a number—say, the day of the month—and punch the Channel Up button that many times. Stop on that channel, then write down the first sentence you hear. That’s your writing prompt!
9. Head to the Fridge
Again, this is something we’re often told we shouldn’t do while writing! But again, it can provide some pretty great writing prompts. Open the fridge and jot down one word from the names or brands of the first six items that catch your eye. Figure out how to incorporate those words into your story. “Almond,” “dairy,” “Purdue,” “beans,” “sriracha,” and “Tropicana” should stretch your writing muscles!
10. Get the Mail
Finally, a use for junk mail! Sort through your paper mail and check your email spam inbox. Incorporate a name or address from today’s stack of junk mail into your next story—trust me, spam emails in particular can be a bonanza of writing inspiration. How can you not want to write about Sibylla Wilkinson or Dobbin Wong?
11. Take a Walk
It’s been proven that walking boosts blood flow, including to the brain; can help us break out of a rut; and can improve creativity. So get outside and get active! Odds are, you’ll come up with 16 different ideas for what to write while you’re walking and you’ll practically run home to get started. But if you don’t, try working the third person you pass into your next story. If you’re working on nonfiction, consider researching the origins of the fourth street sign on the left, then turning that into a nonfiction narrative.
Inspiration is around us every day, everywhere we turn.
Take a moment to look around for the stories that surround you.
Looking for more ways to break through writer’s block and build more success as a writer? Try these articles:
- What to Do When You Get Writer’s Block, Feel Stuck or Just Don’t Know What to Write
- 15 Success Habits of Professional Writers and Authors
- How to Write a Book in 60 Days