Breaking Writer’s Block: Finding Inspiration to Move Forward

Greetings, SE’ers! Beem Weeks here with you again. Today, I am going to share some ideas for breaking through the dreaded writer’s block.

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I can honestly say I’ve never struggled with this issue. If I have an idea for a story, I jot it down on a Post-It note or a piece of paper. Then, when time allows, I sit down and begin creating.

However, I do understand many writers suffer from writer’s block. So, I’ll share some of the things I use to prime the writing pump.

sign direction inspiration - stimulation

The first thing a writer needs is inspiration. A writer without inspiration is like a kite without wind. You’ll never get the story off the ground. I find inspiration for stories in all sorts of places. I’ll be standing in line at the grocery store, and a verbal exchange between a customer and a clerk will stir some of those brain cells inside my head. And they don’t have to be conversations filled with major revelations about life. They can be a simple exchange that just captures my imagination. As creative writers, we can take mundane things and transform them into the extraordinary—or, at the very least, something entertaining.

A television program might even present to me a What if? What if the story didn’t end with the young couple escaping the burning building together? What if she made it out but he didn’t? The story moves from a happy ending to a dark beginning, with the young woman facing a future without her one true love.

I read an article in Smithsonian magazine several years ago. It told the story of a breakthrough in treating childhood leukemia in the late 1960s. This article inspired me to create a character, to put this character into harm’s way, then rescue her from that dreaded disease using that very breakthrough.

My late father inspired a couple of essays detailing some of the silly things he did just to entertain me and my siblings when we were quite young. These are personal stories that allow me to share my memories and keep my father alive and present.

Jazz Baby comes from multiple inspirations. Emily Ann (Baby) Teegarten is a conglomeration of three girls I knew once upon a time (and a few I did not know). These girls, though now responsible and well-adjusted adults, were once reckless, wild, and moving in the wrong direction. Curiosities had them wanting to grow up long before they were ready. Bad things happened to those girls, though they survived and came out stronger and wiser. The era in which the story is set (the Roaring Twenties) can be attributed to stories my Grandfather told. He had a knack for crafting stories that pulled listeners into the moment. In a scene where Emily is crossing the Mississippi River, telling Tanyon Thibbedeaux about giant catfish dwelling beneath the surface, well, that comes from an old family photograph my grandfather took of my aunt and uncle. As children of eight and nine years of age, they posed beside a pair of caught catfish that could have easily swallowed either child.

A documentary about a young girl with schizophrenia inspired my short story entitled Came the Flood. I took that inspiration, did some research on the illness, the treatments, and the reality for both those who suffer from it and those who watch loved ones slide into that darkness, and created my own tale.

Sometimes the inspiration is personal. My grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s disease during the last ten years of her life. I recall those conversations with her as the disease began to take its toll. We’d be chatting away, just like old times, when she’d suddenly stop in mid-sentence and ask, “Now, who are you again?” This would happen every few minutes. I’d tell her I’m her grandson. She’d give a little dismissive laugh and tell me to stop kidding. I’d tell her again who I am, and we’d just continue with our conversation—only, she’d start from the beginning and repeat most of what she’d already said. But every so often she’d truly recognize me and would ask a meaningful question or two, before vanishing in the haze of her affliction once again. These memories of my time visiting my grandmother became the inspiration of a short story called Sweetie Girl.

thoughtful woman coming up with an idea

And then there are those ideas that just come to me. They drift in—unbidden—from the ether, passing through my head like wayward radio waves, looking for a receiver, searching for life, for pages to call home. This is how it works for so many of us writers. These are story ideas that find no basis in anything we’ve experienced, seen, overheard, nor recall from days past. These are gifts from some other realm. I’ve written a few short stories based on these gifts.

Now, I understand that despite these many sources of inspiration, writer’s block may still find its way across your path. In those situations, there are plenty of options. If you’re working on a story when you find yourself stuck, just put that story away, out of sight, for a determined period of time. I would suggest two weeks. For two weeks, just leave it alone, don’t look at it, don’t think about it. In fact, use those two weeks to begin another story. Immerse yourself in this new work. Then, once the two weeks are up, go back to the original piece with fresh eyes and a clear head. If you still find yourself stuck, maybe that’s one of those stories that isn’t meant to be. Don’t be married to it. Be prepared to kick it to the curb—if need be.

By nature, writers are creative personalities. And the core root of creativity is inspiration. These are the two main ingredients that make up the storyteller. This goes for all writers, whether you write novels, short stories, poems, song lyrics, news articles, or blog posts. Creativity needs inspiration. Without it, there is no story—at least not an entertaining one.

So, keep your mind attuned to the environment around you. Inspiration comes at us in so many shapes and forms and shades. It is delivered to us via multiple messengers. Keeping our eyes open and our minds ready to grasp hold is the real trick. If you’re a writer, that block shouldn’t be in your way. Go around it, over it, or through it—just don’t let it deny you the finish line of your story.

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61 thoughts on “Breaking Writer’s Block: Finding Inspiration to Move Forward

  1. Pingback: Tried and Failed #WIP Wednesday – Joan Hall

  2. Pingback: Breaking Writer’s Block: Finding Inspiration to Move Forward – Nelsapy

  3. Well cool written story here
    One thing is on my mind here, on the Beem Weeks photo
    Somebody should tell the guy in Michigan that one of the basic rules to win a Pulitzer prize is probably
    Spelling the word Pulitzer in the right way
    Its Pulitzer not Pultizer!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. HI Beem, thanks for sharing this article. I too have not experienced writer’s block but rather a full time working writer’s lack of time. I have discovered this year that when I am very busy and stressed at work, it is easier for me to write short stories and children’s books than novels for adults because my limited time makes me feel like I’m making no progress at all. Congrats on how you use inspiration from articles for your short stories. I like stories that have a thread of truth running through them, you can usually tell.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ooh! I know that “full-time working” block. That’s a biggie for many of us. I often have a lot on my plate, which cuts into my writing time. That’s where I can focus on the short stories. But I am close to finishing one of the novels I’m currently writing. It’s been a long time coming! Thanks for your comment, Robbie.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great piece, Beem! An author friend who hasn’t been very productive lately recently told me with a shrug that he writes when he’s inspired, but I’ve found that inspiration happens while we’re writing. When I sit down to write an essay or story, I’m always surprised by what emerges from my subconscious onto the page. Like, Oh — is that what I’ve been thinking about?!

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  6. That is indeed true Beem and I like the part when you said “Creativity needs inspiration, without it there is no story”. I agree with you here, as a Blogger I first think about what impacts me and what inspires my ideas to write my own blog posts.

    Very detailed info here and one that is helpful to all writers✔️

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Great advice Beem and love how you get inspired. Truest words – if blocked, walk away. I did that with one of my more difficult books I wrote. I was working on another book at the same time and it was great to have another project to go to for a time out. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  8. It was fun to learn about how you find inspiration, Beem. I think once writers have an idea, then block isn’t as much of an issue. We just have to sit down and write – so discipline comes into play. I’ve never struggled with block, and hope I never run out of ideas! Fun post!

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Pingback: #ReblogAlert- #TwoFer #ThisWeekOnStoryEmpire & #SmorgasbordWeeklyRoundUp | The Write Stuff

  10. Really enjoyed your post, Beem, and love the way you come up with inspiration for your stories. I didn’t start writing until I was 69 (9 years ago) and up until I started on my 4th Riverbend novel, I had no idea what this “writer’s block” thing was all about. But at that point, I got stuck in the middle of my WIP. Fifteen chapters in, I realized that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with one of the secondary characters, or if he should even be in the story at all. I did exactly what you suggested above and shelved the book for now. I’ll have to readdress the issue when I have more perspective on it. In the meantime, I’ve started writing a Wake-Robin Ridge spinoff novella, and would like to get that done before taking another look. I don’t know if that much elapsed time is a good idea or not, but I’m going to give it a try. I don’t want to return to the story until I can think about it more objectively, so I’m crossing my fingers that a break for a couple of months will be a good thing.

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this issue! Super post!! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for sharing your experiences, Marcia. Taking a couple months away from a project shouldn’t be too terrible. I took two years away from Jazz Baby before returning to it. It gave me a fresh take on the story. I had simply became burned out during the original run through it. I wrote many other stories during those two years, and when I returned, I found I had become a better writer. The novel I’m finishing now has its root going back several years. I shelved it and figured I’d never revisit it. But as I started another project, I found myself combing through those few chapters I’d written. I liked what I read so much, I parked the newer work in favor of finishing the old one. Best wishes to you on all of your projects.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks so much for sharing that, Beem. I feel much better about letting this troublesome novel sit for a while longer. I’m glad to know that the length of time “on hold” isn’t as important as being in the right place mentally to tackle it again. Your sharing of how you’ve handled it at different times has really helped me come to terms with the shelving of a WIP, so thanks once again! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  11. A fantastic post as usual, Beem. I suppose I’m like you. Writer’s block has never been an issue for me. My issue lies in not having enough hours in the day. But that’s a story for another day! I love the ideas you’ve shared today and where some of your own ideas come from. It’s true, inspiration can really be anywhere as long as we’re willing to search for it. Thanks so much for sharing an inspiring post! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I don’t usually lack for ideas and love finding a whatif to work on, but at times I need to walk away from a project, just like you suggest. Sometimes mid story I don’t have a clue and that’s a good time to move on to something else. I love when stories are just sent those are the best. At the moment I’m not creating anything new other than poetry. I take these moments to edit and spruce up other writing related projects. Great post, Beem with plenty of ideas how to get back on track.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I enjoyed learning the background for your amazing stories, Beem. Your talent with dialogue transports readers into the world you’ve created.
    I don’t often suffer from writer’s block so much as procrastination pauses 🙂 I need to work on that, lol

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your kind words, Jacquie. I’m also a serial procrastinator. It’s something that I believe has actually helped my writing. I’ve put off stories that, when I return to them, I’ve found a better way to write it. Stories will be finished when they are truly ready.

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  14. I liked your advice about setting a story aside for two weeks. I have found that to be the best was to figure out a stumbling block or plot point. Like you, I have not experienced writer’s block but have had some tussles with the plot. An excellent post, Beem. I enjoyed your personal experiences. Thanks for sharing.

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  15. Brilliant, Beem, and inspiring. Life sometimes throws hurdles that interrupt or disable our best intentions. But, as you’ve so beautifully expressed, the everyday encounter can produce a post-it note that can conjure a breakthrough story. Thank you for this thought-provoking read. 😊

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  16. I love this, Beem! I do believe creatives see their surroundings through different eyes. I remember one time Rick explained to me how when he would paint something, he would see all these different dimensions, shadows, lines, and shapes. He told me to look at a doorknob and tell him what I saw. Not being a visual artist, I saw a doorknob. Then he proceeded to show me all of the different aspects of that doorknob. It’s much the same with creative writers. Inspiration for a story can jump out from anywhere. I often get ideas from a line in a song. Sometimes I will dream a story idea. And sometimes a character will jump into my brain and start telling me his/her story. 🙂 It’s such a fascinating process. I love all the inspirations you shared, Beem. Personal experiences make any story deeper. Thank you for sharing and here’s to never having to experience writer’s block!!

    Liked by 3 people

    • That’s a beautiful story about Rick and the doorknob, Jan. I envy those who can paint (and see) the world in richer and deeper aspects than most. They are the intuitive ones. Thank you for sharing that story.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Fantastic post, Beem, and so much inspiration! I rarely suffer from writer’s block, but during those moments when I get stuck, my usual method is to sit down and bulldoze through. Sometime’s it’s like wading in quicksand, and the words won’t come or they’re horribly clunky, but eventually the flow returns. I’ve also found if I go back and reread 1-2 previous chapters of my WIP, that will also get the words flowing again. I never lack for ideas (like most writers, I have a backlog). More often it’s a matter of time. Inspiration, as you said, is everywhere. We just need to look, listen, and observe!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences, Mae. I also go back and re-read the previous chapter or two when I’m not feeling what I’ve written. I know all too well the horror of a clunky bunch of words. But as long as they are on the page, they can be smoothed out.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. “A writer without inspiration is like a kite without wind” – loved that! It sounds as if you hail from a long line of great storytellers. Thanks for some great, practical solutions to something most writers experience at one time or another.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Fantastic post, Beem! I used to use the term writer’s block when I couldn’t seem to write, but in reality it was more like procrastination (and a bit of fear) on my part. Your advice about putting a story aside for a while is timely for me. I’ve struggled with a short story the past month and just this week I decided to temporarily shelve it and move on to another project. If the original story doesn’t work out, so be it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Putting the story aside for a period really does help, Joan. When you return to it, you’ll view it through different eyes. You’ll see things you may have missed before. I rarely have scrapped a story once returning to it. But there are a few that didn’t make it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I wouldn’t say I’m experiencing writer’s block, but my current WIP is taking forever to finish. My life schedule is busy, busy, busy. When I do find time to write, it’s sometimes just a few minutes, so I choose to write a quick poem instead of diving into the story. I keep coming back to it because it’s a story I want to tell. Sometimes, we just have to accept the restrictions on our time and practice a bit of self-compassion to allow the story to flow on its own timeline. Great post, Beem! 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    • I fully understand what you are going through, Yvette. Work and life clutter the day. Some days I don’t write at all. Other days will see me write a paragraph or two. But if I still believe in the story, it will get written. All good things take time to germinate and mature. Stories are no different. I will never rush a story. It gets finished when it’s ready. I’m so glad to find your comment here today, Yvette. Thank you for adding to the conversation.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Pingback: Breaking Writer’s Block: Finding Inspiration to Move Forward | Legends of Windemere

  22. Thanks for these very interesting strategies coping with writer’s block. As this is not an exclusive problem of authors, i am very thankful for solutions. Beeing honest with me its always a big addition of procrastination, keeping me aways from needful writings. Thanks again, Beem! Have a beautiful weekend! xx Michael

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Michael. I’m in the same boat as you. Procrastination is a big problem with me. I work on many projects for which I am paid. Then, when I have some free time, I don’t much feel like looking at my computer again. I put it off until later. But later seldom arrives as promised. But those stories still manage to find completion–even if it takes a longer time.

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  23. I think of writer’s block as a state where you have to write something specific (term paper, novel, blog post) with a deadline. You’re poised to write, but you can’t get it going. The deadline induces anxiety, which doesn’t help. On the other hand, there’s laziness and procrastination, or maybe you could call it “writer’s reluctance.” This is when you don’t even sit down to write. I have experienced the latter more than the former. Your suggestion to set the work aside is a good one, especially when there’s no deadline.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Ah, the dreaded deadline. I’m also a procrastinator, Audrey. For me, the anxiety arrives in full when I haven’t written anything in a few days. It’s real and palpable, this anxiety. I need to write something, even if it’s just a few lines. I like your term “writer’s reluctance”. That really describes what many of us experience as writers. Thank you so much for contributing to the conversation.

      Liked by 2 people

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