Creative Sources of Inspiration

Posted by melissa kandel on February 20, 2019 in On Writing | 3 Comments

A few days ago, my name appeared as a contributor in a Forbes article about creative inspiration. But no, this post is not a shameless plug for that; it’s actually a jumping off point to take what I wrote about and go even deeper into the subject.

For reference, here was my response to the question: How do you find new ideas for content when your brain is feeling ideas-starved?

The business of writing is enlightening to write about because when you think pragmatically about your creative processes, you’re often able to unlock ideas otherwise stifled by the weighty spell of “OK, BE CREATIVE NOW!”

Unhinged from the pressures of Creativity, you can just create.

Anyway, this little exercise into the sources of inspiration sparked further consideration as to some other non-traditional ways we can get our brains to turn on when we’re feeling off. (As many writers and creatives have noted, there’s no such thing as writer’s block. You sit down, you write, you get it done.) So, I’m listing a few here for the sake of Wednesday conversation. Feel free to add your own in the comments below.

Really Good TV Shows

… with really good writing. I’ve been watching True Detective season 3 (starring Mahershala Ali and Stephen Dorff as the rag-tag detective duo) and despite the pitfalls of season 2 (and the gloriousness of season 1), it’s really good. The script is sharp, the dialogue is smart and the plot twists and turns are tighter than a curve along the Pacific Coast Highway, Big Sur on your left, the craggy mountainside of California to your right and a slight breeze whistling in between. I like it.

I’ve also been following series creator, writer and director Nic Pizzolatto on Instagram (@nicpizzolatto) because careful sleuthing in the comments section reveals tidbits (inspiring tidbits!) about his creative process. Going behind the curtain with another writer’s masterful work can often times inspire your own.

The Fearless Flyer

Stick with me on this one. Every time I go to Trader Joe’s, I always have to pick up one of their newsletters. Fearless Flyer is endlessly inspiring. Not so much because of the content (although it is an interesting read) but because of what it stands for: Someone, somewhere, standing in a beige-walled office was told to write a newsletter about food for sale at a large, chain grocery store. Instead of nodding and his/her boss and saying, “Sure, let’s do this bland-just-another-newsletter thing,” he/she took the assignment and turned it into a warmly anachronistic epistle to all things epicurean and fun. If Fearless Flyer Corporate Communications Hero can do it, you can, too.

Actual Conversations

Without teetering on the creep, the next time you’re in a coffee shop by yourself, put your phone and laptop away and just listen. To the barista taking orders, to the patrons conversing next to you, to the bustle of people shuffling across the floor to pick up their lattes and foamy whatevers. If you take a few moments to hear real dialogue — the cadences, the rhythms, the words real people use — it’ll enrich your own writing. You’ll also pick up prompts that can take you to imaginative places unknown. Last week I was sitting on my porch and two surfers passed by. One, longer haired and taller, turned to his friend and said, “Vodka solves nothing.” Three words, unlimited possibilities for the writer to travel with words.


Another non-traditional method, yes, but how good do you feel after a hot shower or relaxing bath? For the ladies (or men if it’s your thing), don’t you feel more put together and ready to GO after a manicure when your nails are beautifully sweeping against the keys of your keyboard? There’s something about being clean that refreshes the mind just as much as it does the body. (Also, side note: How do I recreate the exact scene above right now?)

A Walk

My final suggestion may seem trite (“Oh what, you like long walks on the beach to stir your creative sensibilities? How original.”) But when ideas run scarce, walk. (For recent reference, consider revisiting this post about exercise and its scientifically proven link to generating new, original thoughts.) But REALLY! If your mind is saying no, then wake it up by changing the scenery around you, using those feet at the bottom of your body and finding ideas tucked into the cracks of the sidewalk or brim on a stranger’s hat. Inspiration is everywhere. Inspiration is nowhere. Because in the end, inspiration is just a construct — a word we use to describe the process of awakening the ideas already inside you — so really, it’s wherever you want it to be.

3 Responses

  1. the #1 Itinerary
    February 20, 2019

    Great post 😁

  2. Sara Flammang
    February 20, 2019

    what an eclectic and interesting range of creativity sources! Really points out that if you stay open and wide eyes, you can find inspiration all around you. From company newsletters to Trader Joes (!) marketing or even talking to a faceless man at a seminar, this gave ME something to think about!

  3. File Under New Things: A Newsletter - little word studio
    March 3, 2019

    […] If writing a newsletter makes you sweat, double down and sign up.In a Forbes article, I shared this tip: “Sign up for as many company newsletters as you can, especially for businesses that seem wildly outside your own industry. If the newsletter isn’t good you can always unsubscribe, but chances are, if it’s a quality email, you’ll find inspiration in the news they’re sharing and how they’re sharing it.” (For more ways to get inspired when crafting long-form content pieces like newsletters and blog posts, refer to this post I wrote: Creative Sources of Inspiration.)  […]


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