The Ultimate Guide To Provoking Inspiration

provoke inspiration

Most writers have some sort of a routine when they need to provoke inspiration. Trumbo famously edited it his bathtub and Balzac wrote during the night, then rewrote during the day. Most writers don’t have so extreme quirks, some have none. But having a routine that connects with your imagination and inspiration is a useful technique for provoking muses to pay you a visit.

We all from time to time need a little boost in our creative process. I could sometimes stare at a blank page procrastinating for a full day. The cursor would blink at me, I would blink back. The nauseating feeling of frustration would start climbing up from my legs right to my head. Nothing makes me less productive than not being productive – and that’s the real trouble. Once I stop, I’m done.

Using Senses To Provoke Inspiration


A coupe of months ago I was attending a lecture and my teacher asked me what have I head or seen or smelled as I was walking to college. I said nothing. I couldn’t remember. Now, that was exactly his point. We loose so much when we confide ourselves inside our minds as we walk or stare out a window. Only when something extraordinary happens do we pay attention.

About a month ago I was stuck. I couldn’t write a single word. I just wasn’t in the mood. So I decided to go by something or other thing that I needed. As I was walking, absolutely free of any sense or thought, I remembered my teacher and decided just to experience my surrounding. I listened to the wind, I watched the faces of passer-byes, I smelled sewers on that gloomy day and I was immediately inspired to write a disgusting story set exactly there – smelly fog, cold wind, the smell of cigarettes and an unknown man in a motel hiding his identity. All of that from a stench of sewers? Yes.

So, today’s advice would be: keep in touch with yourself. Experience the best and the worst there is. Don’t just let your emotions and mood affect your story, but touch the world with your fingers, smell it, listen to it.

How many times have you read a tip that said you should eavesdrop a conversation? It’s not in vain. Just do it. Get into a fight, eat something that you don’t like, listen to a song that is way outside your comfort zone – it’ll give you an insight in what the world has to offer, but what you and your taste have decided not to take. Just try it.

Try the world!

5 Methods To Provoke Inspiration

Use smells

I like to write in the morning and come back to my work during the day, sometimes staying up late in the night. I know, not very precise. But I find that my day is defined by what I do in the morning. The very first thing I do is make a cup of coffee. I started my day with writing and the smell of coffee so many times that the two became synonymous. Now the smell of coffee makes me think of what to write, and writing makes me want some coffee. Use this tip wisely, because you could easily develop resistance against something that your brain connects to bad experiences. But if you like a certain smell, have it around when you’re writing.

Use music

These isn’t a more common way of provoking emotions in such short periods of time than listening to music. Music inspires me beyond the realm of possible. So many stories and novellas were thus born. So, if there is a certain artist or a genre that you like and that reminds you of that idea for a novel you have, use that!

Use pictures

A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. True! A picture of a wrecked house or a building, especially if it’s an old photo, makes me want to write about the people whose memories inhabited the building, whose daily rituals made it breathe. There are many websites out there that let you choose a subject, mood or style that would be compatible with your story or that just might spark an idea (more on that here). One such website is Free Images.

Use space

You, as an author, should have a space that is just for you and only for being creative. I wrote about creating your creative space, but a simple rule is that there should be a spot in this world where you feel safe and where your ideas go. Find a spot in your home where you won’t be exposed to negative stimuli and keep it for yourself.

Use bad experiences

I’m writing a novel about a rotten town that is a replica of a town where I grew up. I liked being drunk and I liked laughing to show how happy I was, but on the inside I was stuck living like that – I didn’t want to change it. That was a bad phase, a rough time, but it make for a good story if told right. Unfortunately, life is a pile of stuff that occurs and then stays in our memory, so we all have some bad experiences. Use them to make your story feel even more realistic!

The Fountain of Inspiration

Once in a while there comes a source of inspiration that you just have to use. Whether it’s a new feeling you discover or an interesting building that you’ve never seen before, or a new angle of looking at things around you, there comes a time when you just can’t resist but to write only to use the inspiration.

inspirationRecently I found a music genre that suits me very much but is far away than what I was used to. You see, I play piano, compose a little bit and write transcriptions and orchestrations (just for fun), so I used to listen to classical music. Even though my society looks strangely at us classical geeks, I endured the constant teasing.

Classical music served its purpose. I developed a certain taste in music that is in harmony with my life. But there was a part of my life that was confusing even to me.

I recently got into cabaret, I find it very sad but the sadness of it is wrapped in cheerful tunes. It almost makes me want to drink and cry. Now, it reminded me of my freshman year and it bring a kind of nostalgia that I don’t find anywhere else in life, no matter how hard I look.

This way I found my fountain of inspiration. I’m still draining it and every verse I hear makes me want to write a story. They do this wild mix of cabaret and pure drinking atmospheres. While writing The Rotten Town it’s the only group I listen to. They’re called This Way To The EGRESS

If you don’t have a source of inspiration now, you should experiment more with your taste. I found out about This Way To The EGRESS by accident and it is one of those beautiful accidents that give birth to a new world. So, change your perspective tomorrow. Do something you don’t usually do.


These sources just sort of appear to us out of a whim. But, on a good day, we can invite them. I talked already about using our senses to enhance this super-power, so check that out as well.

Apply any of these methods the next time you want inspiration to pay you a visit and see yourself get more productive.

Keep writing!

Author: Mladen Reljanović

Mladen Reljanović is the founder and lead writer at Writer to Writers. He is the author of Oaktown stories, senior student of communication and a pianist.

8 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide To Provoking Inspiration

  1. It’s true, we get lost in our own heads and forget to really be present. I’ve taken part in this mindful writing challenge before. It’s a great way to focus all of your senses and craft a short piece of writing, even one sentence, on a precise moment you’ve captured. Thanks for the post!

  2. Being a stories gardener – not an architect – it’s always kind of a surprise, where the story ends up with me. My inspiration comes from articles, cut-outs of local newspapers, or specific medicine magazines, movies (the old ones – different kind of storytelling) music, weather, astronomy, astrology, comics, graffiti. I try to avoid the regular news, by the way, not cluttering my mind with that crap. I use learning cards to take notes, and I shuffle them around as much as I can. What I can add to fuel your story engine:
    – use hunger (the stories are crisp, on point – use different mind settings – I felt pain doesn’t work for me, but hunger, thirst, any longing sensation works, as long as you don’t write the story about the thing you long for),
    – use alcohol (WAIT! Only a tiny bit, to get you relaxed, or tipsy, NOT drunk. We aren’t Hemingway, folks! Stories are funny, sometimes profane, sometimes sexy. Oh by the way, NEVER edit drunk),
    – use anger (let the story throw some punches, don’t flinch, don’t duck, get that bloody nose, taste the blood, tell what’s really important)
    – stand on the other side of the mass, be the loner, be the outcast, be …you. Leave your comfort zone

What are your thoughts on this?