Finding inspiration as a writer

By: Emily Maybanks

January, I find, is a month where everything feels as though it’s slowed down – time, motivation and inspiration; especially when it comes to being a writer. In order to try to combat this distinct lack of writing inspiration and motivation this rather cold, dull January, I’ve managed to find several sources of inspiration for my writing, particularly my creative writing.

The first source of more motivation when I find myself uninspired to write is a book, published in 2017, and entitled Letters to a Young Writer. It was written by an Irish author called Colum McCann. Letters to a Young Writer is what the title implies that is – a series of letters containing advice about being a young writer. It contains lots of advice from finding inspiration to getting published, embracing criticism. Before each letter is a quote summarising the topic of the letter. One of my favourites is the read aloud letter, which includes a quote from Truman Capote, “to me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music the words make.” I would certainly recommend reading Letters to a Young Writer for some writing advice. I’ve also recently found that creative writing exercise books have been useful for not only providing advice with writing, but also suggesting short exercises to do also. I have especially found Creative Writing Exercises for Dummies beneficial when it comes to practicing writing exercises.

Colum McCann’s Letters to a Young Writer
Creative Writing Exercises for Dummies

Another source of inspiration that I have recently discovered and cannot emphasise how brilliant they are enough are Writing Maps. I was so fortunate to receive some for Christmas and they are the quirkiest, coolest things ever. They are maps full of suggestions for writing ideas and places to go for inspiration and the illustrations too are beautiful. The creator of the Writing Maps, Shaun Levin, gave me some background information on what inspired him to create Writing Maps: “The main idea behind the Writing Maps is that the world is full of inspiration; basically, the world is one big creative writing prompt… The Writing Maps are made up of ways to channel all that into stories, to make stuff out of what’s out there! Writing Maps are for anyone who is interested in writing and who is open to trying out new approaches to creating stories. I’ve always loved that combination of text and image, and have a deep interest in psychogeography and creative mapping. I don’t remember exactly how all this became aligned, but at some point I must have thought: let’s put creative writing prompts onto maps! It was exciting – no one had done it before, so it was a bit like going into unchartered territory (without a map!) and creating something new.” Furthermore, when asked where he finds himself feeling most inspired, Levin responded: “Checking into a hotel in another city is always the beginning of an inspiring few days. I was in Madrid recently, and it was like I was surrounded by muses. I couldn’t stop writing and making stuff. Being away from one’s work space is like being liberated, nothing can make demands on you, and the imagination can soar. I love hotels. I love being a stranger in a city. If I could live in a hotel, I’d be happy, and I’d probably get a lot more writing done! One of my secret pleasures is to check into a hotel in London every year for a few days just to be a tourist in my city and to see what new writing projects will start to take shape.” I too have found travelling to be a great source of inspiration for my written work, so I could completely empathise with this reply from Levin.

My 4 Writing Maps!

However, more simply, I have found writing inspiration to be everywhere. Getting outside is a liberating source of never-ending inspiration; from listening to strangers’ conversations, to being in a variety of places – the beach, the park, the shopping centre, a café or a restaurant. Listening to music is a fabulous source of writing inspiration. There are numerous occasions where I have listened to a song, interpreted the lyrics in my own way and been inspired and motivated to create a story from the song. Reading too is a good way to gain writing inspiration as well as to just unwind. Personally, I have found magazines to be a good source of inspiration, in particular, Breathe magazine and Popshot magazine.

Breathe magazine

Inspiration for writing can be found anywhere, as Shaun Levin said, “the world is one big creative writing prompt.”

Sometimes, I go offline and write a story


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