Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and reading resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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If you'd like to see older WWFC strips, please check the Will Write For Chocolate archives or start from the beginning. You can also follow WWFC on Facebook, Pinterest and Google+. Thanks so much for your continuing support! -- Debbie

Entries in inspiration (3)


Writing inspiration follow-up and a survey re: writing communities

A survey for my next column: Do you participate in any online writing communities? Why or why not? If you do, which ones are your favourites? Please include any relevant URLs, thanks.

In my last column, I asked how the rest of you found creative inspiration. Some of your responses:

From Palmer:
"...Generally I go between reading something, playing games, or just switching projects for a while. Simply mixing things up usually does the trick for me. Failing that, I grab my girlfriends and harass them with brainstorming for a while. They always seem to come up with ideas that don’t work, but usually tips me into finding something that does."

From Amy:
"Definitely exercise. That really gets me motivated, especially if I’ve hit a wall in my writing. I pull on my shoes and head out the door. More often than not when I sit back at the computer 20 minutes later, I can do my Rambo thing on the wall, keep going, and clean the mess up later. (I think it’s ‘cause of all the blood rushing to my head
Also a fan of the journal, but I use mine just as a daily diary– what’s been happening in my life and thoughts about that, etcetera. It’s only on occasion that I’ll write story lines. But either way, I find the non-editing extremely freeing (if a little embarassing on the re-read!)"

From Lynda:
"Inspiration – I found this book really helpful: “
I do mind-mapping to get inspiration - I have a big drawing pad that is covered in related words and freewriting. I also use photography books as a kick start.

From Clair Ching:
"After writing my reflections on my journal, I get inspired to write poems and stories again. Although I haven’t finished much since I started going into more web content development work.
Aside from that, listening to good music and having conversations with my closest friends inspire me to write some more. :-)"

From Lynn:
"Exercise is a great way to jog a few brain cells around. And you’re right: it’s the perfect time to listen to yourself think. Before you know it, you’ve come up with some great ideas you wouldn’t have had if you sat hopelessly in front of your computer. :-) I personally prefer writing everything in a notebook first before launching into any writing job. Ideas seem to flow much more easily that way. And when I need to start typing it all up, I look at what I’ve written and get even MORE ideas from that."

Writing journals and other inspiration

Back from Italy! You can see my report starting here. I opted not to bring my laptop on the trip but kept up my writing journal.

I started my writing journal after reading Julia Cameron's The Right To Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life. I found this book incredibly inspirational, as I did Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down The Bones and Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird : Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Whenever I'm feeling unmotivated and restless in terms of my writing, I reread one of these books and always feel re-energized.

Keeping a writing journal also keeps me from getting in a rut. My current writing journal is a medium-sized Moleskine. It has more space to write than the pocket-size but is more convenient to carry around than the full-size Moleskines. I'm a huge Moleskine fan, if you haven't already guessed. :-)

Anyway, I try to write at least one page a day. Writing manually rather than typing is more laborious, but it gives me the freedom to take my notebook everywhere. It also discourages me from trying to do too much self-editing as I write. I allow myself to scribble out whatever I'd like, of course, but mostly I force myself to keep writing. ANYTHING, even if it's stream-of-consciousness babbling. Sometimes I end up with nonsensical fragments, bits of potential poetry. Other times I write snatches of dialogue, or character descriptions, perhaps a scene from a non-existent story or novel. The important thing is to commit something to paper.

This felt really awkward at first, but over time it's become easier and easier. And every once in a while, I write something I actually like and want to use.

Another activity I find that helps: exercise. I almost always feel re-energized after a good workout. Also when I'm out walking or running, I'll sometimes purposely leave the iPod behind and not listen to anything but my inner thoughts. This especially helps if I've reached a tough spot in my writing; I've found that getting AWAY from the keyboard is sometimes the best thing.

A survey: How do YOU get re-energized creatively? What books or activities help you, for instance?


Finding writing inspiration

First of all, thanks to Angela Hoy for giving Will Write For Chocolate a plug in her weekly e-mail newsletter for freelance writers, WritersWeekly. :-)

When I was in my early teens, I used to write fan letters to my favorite authors. In retrospect, I'm surprised at how many wrote back; some of them must have received hundreds of letters like mine on a regular basis. Here's a letter that Stephen King sent to me, for example. I asked Michael Crichton where he got his ideas...proudly thinking at the time, I'm sure, that I was asking an incredibly interesting question he had never received before. To Crichton's credit, he graciously responded with a handwritten note in which he also thanked me for my letter. His answer to my question about where he got his ideas: They just happen.

Nowadays, I carry a small notebook around with me all the time as well as a pen or pencil. I didn't always do this. Years ago, when I was first starting to write professionally, I recall being frustrated and somewhat panicked. It seemed like all the Good Ideas had been taken; what was there left to be written about? Whenever I did try to write something, the words seemed to fall flat and lifeless.


In desperation, I decided I needed an afternoon off, took a book and went to a nearby family diner. It was crowded, but I managed to find a seat near the window. Ordered something to eat, opened my book...but then got distracted by a conversation between two women sitting at a table next to me. They were clearly unhappy with a co-worker who had gotten promoted.

At first, I admit to feeling a tad guilty about eavesdropping. But then I thought, hey, they're having this conversation in a PUBLIC RESTAURANT.

After recovering from this momentary pang of conscience, I couldn't help but notice the interaction between a man and woman a few tables away, who were obviously having some kind of disagreement but not wanting to talk about it too openly. They wielded their cutlery like weapons and avoided each other's gazes as they went through the motions of a civilized meal.

And then there was the somewhat scruffy older man in the corner, obviously a regular. He was pretending to read the newspaper, but he kept surreptitously looking around the room...just like me.

Hm, probably a writer.

So many stories, and so many interesting characters! I was immediately inspired to incorporate some of these into my own writing projects.

And I realized that I had been retreating into hermit mode over recent weeks, mistakenly assuming that the self-imposed isolation would force me into greater creativity. What I needed instead: to get out in the world, to start listening and observing with a writer's ears and eyes, to start noticing again.

I've found this applies to non-fiction writers as much as fiction. Possible article ideas lie waiting in every dreaded cocktail party, every conversation, every stroll through the neighborhood. Not necessarily GOOD ideas, mind you; the next step, of course, is picking and choosing what interests you most, deciding on which ideas to pursue, which have the most potential.

So...where do YOU get your ideas? What inspires you to write?

Some related online resources

(feel free to post others you'd recommend to writers!)

Sal Towse has a section devoted to "creative nudges" in her massive writers' resource site.

Writing prompts from Writer's Digest, Creative Writing Prompts,, Creativity Portal.

You can find some inspirational writers' quotes in, and I've always loved quotes by and for writers. If you have any favorites, please do post them below!