Cheerleading for Writers: I – Ideas and Inspiration

“Where do you get your ideas from?” I’ve read this question in a couple of articles and even found a version of it on a title of several books for writers.

I’ve been asked this question as well.

The first impulse is often to say “I’ve no idea, where my ideas come from.”

This would be probably the most accurate answer, but I am aware that it might not be very well received if I say that.

So as often when in doubt I addressed a dictionary.

Here are the definitions of the words idea and inspiration I found in Cambridge Dictionaries Online.

Idea is:

  • a suggestion, thought, or plan,
  • knowledge or understanding about something,
  • a belief about something,
  • a purpose or reason for doing something;

and inspiration is:

  • someone or something that gives you ideas for doing something,
  • a sudden good idea,
  • someone that people admire and want to be like.

I think I have experienced and tapped from all of these aspects when I write or create something. This applies to all areas of life, both private and business. Including cooking, drawing with my children, cleaning the house, writing commercial offers, updating my website, writing application letters, business e-mails, etc.

But somehow when it comes to writing (my books, articles, guest posts) I sometimes catch myself being afraid that I will run out of ideas too soon or that I would only come up with the bad ones, which nobody would like.

So far it didn’t happen, but this fear comes up, especially when I am about to finish a project. A thought runs then in my head like a hamster in a running wheel, “What will come next?” This thought makes its appearance in various shapes and colors again and again, even with an army of other already existing ideas and started projects waiting for their turn to come.

It might be procrastination or running away from what I have to do in the current moment, but my brain tries to figure out again and again how ideas are generated inside it. And not only this: guided by this fear I try to collect ideas. I bought books with writing prompts, collect quotes, have hundreds of tagged links on my browsers’ favorites bar with all kind of great ideas to inspire me. Do I use any of them? Yes, I do. But only a small percentage from what I already gathered.

So where then do I tap my ideas mainly from? The question is in fact very simple. From all that I am ignited by the awareness of now. For example, if I am in a chat with a person, the combination what this person shares with me and all my experiences from the past as I perceive them now, all that is ignited by my curiosity and listening into a bright fire. The same happens when I create on my own in the quietness of my home during working hours or nights. Reading books, e-mails, surfing online or simply re-reading the end of the chapter I have been writing the day before are able to ignite an idea out of all gathered experiences into something new. But this fire is only ignited when I am fully present and not lost in thoughts about past of future. If I am lost in worried thoughts, then nothing happens. No fire, no warmth.

So the question is, do we really need to understand the mechanisms of idea generation and inspiration processes? Or is it just about diving into them and getting inspired by surrounding us world, circumstances we are in and all that we gathered on our way so far?

It is hard not to analyze everything, but I realize more and more often that a spark of an idea, process or inspiration are as much a miracle as conception and birth of a child. There might be certain biological processes to both, but you will never know when and how the fruitful ground you provide will generate an idea or a child.

So what remains? What shall we do if we can’t control this process?

The answer is both relieving and terrifying: Nothing.

Do you agree that ideas and inspiration are uncontrollable and simply visit us as some kind of angels or aliens? Or do you think that there is a logical and easily understandable process to all the ideas your brain generates? Can you control them and do you think there is a need for such a control? Or should we all just witness the process, enjoy it, as well as tap energy and magic from it?


Picture: I have no idea why, but I had an impression that our mailbox gave this bunny a feeling of a roof above his head. I made tens of pictures of him under it. He literally posed for me under it and then later he came closer to the window I stood behind. His sweet behaviour ignited many ideas for different scenes, both in respect to humans and animals.


“Cheerleading For Writers”, copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

2 thoughts on “Cheerleading for Writers: I – Ideas and Inspiration

  1. Hello Vica,
    What an interesting article you have written.
    I agree with you, conversations and interaction with others will trigger thoughts and memories that lead to the written word.
    But I also believe it is a talent you must have, it must be nurtured and
    protected. I believe it comes when you least expect it and rarely when
    you demand it. And…if you don’t have the God given talent, perhaps it would help to look for other skills!

    1. Dear Marcy, thank you very much!
      I think we all have a certain amount of talent to do many things and that exercise can actually add to this talent or at least make the talent visible. I think it was Richard Bach who said in one of his books, “You are never given a dream without an ability to make it happen.” I really believe it is the same with almost anything. Take the famous case of people not being able to fly. They needed a few tools and also inspiration to make this possible. And the same is with writers. Especially in collaborations this becomes quite obvious, where each author does what he or she can do best and then together they create something simply amazing and admired by many.

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