View Full Version : Writers: What causes a burst of creative ideas for you?

09-23-2010, 09:45 PM
Hello! I'm researching working on a query about writers and creativity. Have you ever had burst of creative ideas? What were you doing at the time? Running? Taking a shower? Staring out the window?

My best idea day ever happened on the back of an elephant. I was just sitting there, riding through the jungle and a million ideas for my current fiction project kept popping into my head! It was awesome...but frustrating as I didn't have any way to write them all down =(

If you find certain activities really get your creative juices flowing, I'd love to hear about it! At this point, it's for background research only, but if the article sells, I may get in touch with some of you for more info. Just leave a post below if you'd like to participate!

09-23-2010, 09:46 PM
Running? Taking a shower? Staring out the window?


Anything can.

09-23-2010, 11:10 PM
You're lucky then! I'll go for months without having a really good idea day, and then boom! It's usually exercise or being outside that sets me off.

09-24-2010, 02:22 AM
I get good ideas on the bus. I take the bus everyday for my commute and usually I read or am riding with a friend. But on the days when I'm just staring out the window and letting my mind wander, I sometimes come up with some really great stuff!

09-24-2010, 04:31 AM
I get ideas from the news - news items that make me think of something a different way, or connect to other ideas I previously had.

09-24-2010, 05:06 AM
I get my best ideas while reading someone else's novel. The ideas never relate to what I'm reading; it's just that fiction itself makes me want to go write some :)

09-24-2010, 08:53 AM
I get a lot of my ideas from my dreams. I'll wake up after a really vivid dream and think 'I need to write about that!" Sometimes it a character or an entire storyline. I once even dreamed about a poem but I could only remember the first two lines when I woke up. I still wish I could remember the rest of it...

09-24-2010, 09:49 AM
Well, first I have to say. I unfortunately read all your posts with the Cornholio voice. Complete with his funny punctuations.

A lot of things get my creative juices going. The number one thing is music with strong emotional themes.

For example, I think I wrote one of the best death scenes I've done yet while listening to this song. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bssUkTKChwk)It was written in response to the death of one of their band members as the album was being recorded. It helped me get the right mood for a rather traumatic death scene.

Interesting note with the album art on that one. The band member's stage name was The Reverend. Normally referred to as the Rev. The tomb stone under the Death Bat has the word foREVer on it, as a tribute to him.

09-24-2010, 10:16 AM
I get my best ideas while reading someone else's novel. The ideas never relate to what I'm reading; it's just that fiction itself makes me want to go write some :)

Same here.

Part of why I'm such a ridiculously slow reader is I get distracted by all the ideas I start getting whenever I read good fiction.

Alternatively, you could try going through some crazy, life-altering stuff. That always works.

09-24-2010, 10:35 AM
My best ideas come when I'm not thinking of much of anything in particular -- when I'm falling asleep, standing in the shower, driving down a quiet highway, standing in a crowd but not listening to anyone. My best ideas for anything almost always come naturally, of themselves, rather than by forcing it through some kind of brainstorming session. The exception to that rule is with one old friend. When he and I put our heads together on almost any topic, we usually end up coming up with pretty good ideas. But we usually end up going through tons of wacky ones before we get to a light-bulb moment.

Mr Flibble
09-24-2010, 11:41 AM
If I'm anywhere I can't write it down or work on it (like, at the mo I'm doing edits for the last novel. So what pops into my head? Yeah, ideas for WIP)

Also, manic episodes. I don't recommend them though.

Ms Hollands
09-24-2010, 11:32 PM
Airport, shower, dreams, newspaper, discussing something with other writers/friends

09-24-2010, 11:38 PM
Gin......Sometimes Whiskey. But never ever Tequila.

09-26-2010, 04:03 PM
By far the best writing idea I've ever had occured to me while I was hiking through a canyon. Not during the steep part of the hike, I was relaxed and enjoying it.

It was just a single idea to get things started, but after two more hours of hiking, I had an amazing 2000 words outline ready in my head.

Another occasion I get good ideas is in the train (morning, but when I'm not too tired, which is rare). Or right before falling asleep at night. In those cases, I have to get up and start the computer again to write it all down.

09-27-2010, 03:12 AM
Reading old newspaper microfilm. Taking a walk, and like others have said, reading good fiction. I notice good turns of phrase and interesting use of vocabulary, and think.... "Hmmmmmm..."

09-27-2010, 04:58 PM
In the shower, or while driving usually, or riding my horses. It's time I have to think for a while, and I find it helps me come up with stuff.

09-27-2010, 09:04 PM
My current projects are all set in New York, so I've had all sorts of inspiration walking around Manhattan.

When I'm not in Manhattan (and I'm usually not), I'll pore over web sites for businesses in New York, then go to Google Street View to see what it looks like to walk down the street past that business.

For my last trip, I bought a very nice mid-sized Moleskine notebook, but I found myself walking around scribbling notes on a telephone pad I stole from a hotel lobby.

09-28-2010, 07:02 AM
Hard, slogging monotony away from the writing implements.

09-28-2010, 09:33 AM
Dreams. Bus rides. Walking in the woods. Reading.

But seriously, I get ideas all the time. That has never been my problem. Before, it was just impossible for me to put them on paper.

The best idea moment was when the doors opened to my current project. I could not write the ideas down fast enough. I just sat on the bus and let it rush through me.

09-28-2010, 09:42 AM
Most of my ideas hit when I'm trying to go to sleep, and have to get up at six in the morning to go to work. I can't sleep until I take notes on them. I get little sleep. :(

But I always have ideas for new novels, if I could only stay awake long enough to write them.

09-28-2010, 09:49 AM
Don't have a clue.

09-28-2010, 09:57 AM
I believe we think about this the wrong way. From my experience, my conversation, and what little I have read on the matter, it seems a lot of people go through life with short, productive bursts of energy, followed by much longer periods of relative drudgery.

Not just a writer phenomenon, so I'm very hesitant to try to describe any one stimulus. I'd want to know more about brain chemistry on this.

My 2 cents on the matter :P

As my contribution, engaging works of fiction stimulate me. TV shows, films, books, you name it.

09-28-2010, 11:06 AM
For me it's usually taking a walk. It helps a daily flood of info turn into something concrete.

09-28-2010, 11:53 PM
I don't think my mind truly stops trying to piece scenes/dialogue together. I've found excellent inspirations from being in the shower (I don't sing, I work on dialogue..or scenes), watching movies/tv shows, listening to the countless songs on Youtube that I saved.

Just listen to a song, close your eyes and wait to for the scene to start appearing. I now look at movies/tv shows as scene inspirations. "They did this here. But what would happen if this happened?" then I have a scene that I can play around with.

09-29-2010, 03:33 AM
I make it a game, playing with scenarios, finding connections. And it's those connections that seem to lead into a kind of art. Some connections are far better than most others. I practice by randomly picking a thing (a video game scene, a song lyric, a history lesson) and overlapping it with something else completely random. Usually it's nonsense, but when I do find a reasonable connection, it's sometimes golden. And that's when I jot it down and make a place for it in my stories.

I think a lot of it is physiological. There are times in the day when it's best to do one thing than another...

09-30-2010, 10:11 PM
Thanks so much everyone who contributed! This is super helpful. Off to query, with lots of new ideas ...

10-01-2010, 12:44 AM
I always get creative when I'm running. Most recently I decided to get rid of a character (well, I merged two characters)...but it's always while I'm running for some reason. :yessmiley

10-18-2010, 12:05 PM
While I often get ideas doing all the things that have already been mentioned (walking, being bored, day dreaming, drifting off to sleep, talking with friends, etc) one technique I found surprisingly successful I just learned this year on a course.
It's free association writing (I know it's not the most original peice of advice, but I didn't realise how creative it could be).
They would show us a random picture, or a word, or play a sound and then tell us to write for 10 minutes without stopping and trying not to think about it too much. I almost always ended up with some kind of little story, not always good, but occasionally very good and almost always something that had never occured to me until that moment.
Just thought I'd mention it :)

10-18-2010, 03:34 PM
My main sources of inspiration are two.

1) Reading other people's work and thinking, she should have written the story like this instead, or I can do better.
2) Reading philosophy and science. There's nothing that beats looking at old problems in a new way.

10-18-2010, 06:27 PM
Deadlines are my friend.

10-18-2010, 11:14 PM
Most of my ideas come when I'm in the shower or when I'm tossing and turning in bed. The idea for the current WIP I'm working on came from a teen TV show, when I asked myself, "what if things didn't go according to planned?" and a story was born.

10-19-2010, 02:27 AM
Ideas come to me at the most random times...like today! I was stuck on a scene in my novel for about three or four days now, and today, while waiting for the bus after classes, a great idea of how to finish the scene came to me.

I've gotten ideas while in class, sleeping, showering, driving, sitting in a car/bus/train, or cleaning. Usually I'll go days without an idea, or stuck in a part of my novel, and then randomly, whatever I'm stuck on will come to me.

10-19-2010, 09:25 AM
Going to conventions or my writers' group and talking to other writers. The presence of all that creativity seems to have a stimulating effect. Reading, watching films: as others have said, it's not that you're nicking ideas, just the presence of interesting plots and characters and emotionally charged situations can set off thoughts for your own. And, yes, being on the verge of falling asleep. I do try to write those down, but they aren't always comprehensible the next morning. LARPing's been known to spark ideas, but it's hard to write them down when you're chasing monsters through a wet Welsh wood. Or running away from same. In the dark.