Every part of our lives can become inspiration for our next book or short story.
From dialogue we overhear on our commute to ideas planted by coworkers or neighbors mentioning a problem they need to solve, writers draw from everything around us to gain inspiration, motivation, and ideas.
There’s a billion ways to keep track of these ideas, from bullet journals to whiteboard lists, and no one way is perfect for everyone.
If you’ve struggled to keep track of all your ideas by scribbling notes down, you might be a visual learner instead—someone who remembers and focuses better with images than with words.
That might sound weird for a writer, but studies have shown that most people learn and concentrate best when they combine images and words for a more vibrant experience.
Instead of making lists upon lists of characters, settings, plot points, or topics to cover in your books, try making an inspiration board instead!
What Is an Inspiration Board?
Also called a mood board, inspiration wall, or vision board, an inspiration board is basically a giant, constantly evolving poster where you can collect all your best ideas and images, quotes, words, and other things that influence and inspire you.
It can be a full wall, a large poster, a notebook page, or whatever works best for you and your available space, but inspiration boards are often best when they’re big enough to contain a rich selection of materials and let you arrange and rearrange them freely.
What Do You Put on an Inspiration Board?
Anything you want! There are no rules with inspiration boards, other than that everything on there has to inspire you in some way.
What about clippings from magazines with celebrities that you’d love to cast in the movie of your book? Beautiful landscape images of the places you’d love to include in your book? Quotes that inspire you to write more? Historical tidbits relating to your Regency setting?
You can include anything from magazine and newspaper clippings to photos, found objects, receipts, handwritten quotes, font samples, buttons and badges from conventions, and more. If it inspires you, it can go on your board!
Some people like to make a large collage that they keep permanently as a source of inspiration—usually loaded with beautiful pictures and inspiring quotes—while others treat their inspiration board as a moving target, constantly rearranging, adding, and subtracting things as they find new ideas and move their writing in a different direction.
Again, anything goes here—as long as your board works for you and helps you get motivated and inspired to write, you’re doing it the right way!
How To Make an Inspiration Board
There’s a few different ways to make an inspiration board, depending on what you’re looking for and what space and resources you have.
Pinterest started as a way to put inspiration boards online. If most of your inspiration comes from blog posts, online articles, or pictures you’ve found online, consider starting a Pinterest board to save them for later reference.
You can also save your inspiration to a notebook in your Evernote account, but this won’t let you see everything arranged in front of you all at once, which is one of the advantages of a Pinterest or physical inspiration board. Sometimes seeing everything in one place, instead of clicking around, lets you make new and interesting connections that you never would have thought of before!
Traditionally, inspiration boards are in the real world, not stored online. That’s because physically moving around papers, photos, objects, and ephemera triggers different parts of our brains than moving digital information…and that can help us create new connections and come up with even more fresh ideas.
Plus, with a physical board, you can rearrange at will, without worrying about the restrictions of a program or app. Just move the picture and tack it back where you want it right at this moment!
One of the easiest, least expensive ways to make an inspiration board is to buy a big piece of foam core board from your local megamart, office supply shop, or craft store. A big poster-sized piece is usually less than $5.
From there, you just have to hang it on your wall (Command strips and poster tack both work well) and then start pinning up your ideas. A big box of thumbtacks or sewing pins will let you post and rearrange to your heart’s content.If you have a little more money and want a cleaner look, you can frame your foam core board in a poster frame or other picture frame—just make sure to leave out the glass so you can still pin stuff to the board.
Want something other than a simple, plain background? Cover your foam board with adhesive paper, wallpaper, or fabric.
Don’t like the look of thumbtacks sticking out of your board? Stick your inspiration on with colorful, removable washi tape. This also works for sticking things directly to any wall you have handy![houzz=https://www.houzz.com/photos/11390544/SF-Showcase-2014-contemporary-home-office-san-francisco]
You can also hang a grid of clipboards on your wall and tuck your inspirational images and notes under the spring clip. This works especially well if you’re developing a rich cast of characters and want to keep a separate small board for each of them.Want to tuck things onto your board instead of pinning them? Make an elegant latticework board with ribbon and a little glue.
You can also buy a corkboard, either alone or framed, that you can pin things to.Want an even larger surface to work on? writing nook? Paint one wall with magnetic primer or spray paint and you’ll be able to stick whatever you want anywhere you want just by using small, inexpensive magnets. You can also hang stuff with magnetic clips.
Vision Board Ideas
Sometimes being super-flexible isn’t a great thing—where do you start your inspiration board if anything goes?
Here’s a few ideas for themed inspiration boards to get you started:
Book Cover Board
Gather pictures of people, places, and situations that visually represent your book. Clip font samples from magazines that use cool headline text. Print out book covers that you love the feel of, too. When you’ve got a collection that you love, take a few pictures of it to send to your cover designer. Now you can ensure that you’re on the same page visually, with less back and forth!
Pretend you’re casting your book as a movie. Who would play your main characters? Create a board around that idea, using clippings of celebs from magazines and newspapers. You can also include quotes that your characters would identify with, newspaper articles they’d read, or anything else that represents your character to you. Take a page from fashion designers and include pictures of what your characters would wear or swatches of fabric they’d like.
One of the biggest challenges of creating a sci-fi or fantasy novel is building the setting. Tack up pictures of scientific articles that inspire the physics of your book, strange circumstances that might inspire your magical system, or amazing art that transports you to a different place.
Working on a historical novel? Keep your research straight by posting facts, trivia, and vintage images to your inspiration board! Being able to glance at your board and remember that your characters wear very different clothes than you’re used to can even help you out of a jam, when you realize that your heroine can’t move the way you’re planning because her corset is too restrictive!
Inspiration boards work for nonfiction authors, too! Every nonfiction book should start by figuring out what problem or challenge it addresses. Start your board by writing the challenge you’ve found on a piece of paper and putting it at the center, then start gathering ideas for how to solve it and tack those around the edges, growing your idea until you’ve got the visual outline for a book!
For general inspiration, how about tacking up quotes, headlines, Instagram-worthy pics, and other things that inspire you to keep hustling, write more, and achieve your goals? By adding to and rearranging this board, you’ll remind yourself of what you’re working for and why, giving yourself the boost you need to succeed.
Inspiration boards can help you visually organize your ideas for even more powerful inspiration, motivation, and memory.
Do you have an inspiration board? Share a picture with us!
For more ways to organize your creative work, read on:
- Bullet Journal Layouts for Writers: 8 Ideas for Creative Organization (and some bonus examples)
- How to Spring Clean Your Files and Create Better Systems
- How to Create a Writer’s Nook that Will Help You Stress Less and Write More
- How to Write a Vision Statement
Kate Sullivan is an editor with experience in every aspect of the publishing industry, from editorial to marketing to cover and interior design.
In her career, Kate has edited millions of words and helped dozens of bestselling, award-winning authors grow their careers and do what they love!