Novel ideas: where do you find inspiration to write?

Jon Deery, Lily Holbrook, Kiera Furness and Humphrey Jordan reveal the secrets to literary inspiration

multiple writers
15th March 2021

It's about thinking: 'what can I do with this idea?'

Ah, looking for inspiration, are you? Have you tried checking beneath the sofa?

Ask any artist where they get their ideas from, and you’re likely to be met with something sarcastic like that, or outright horror, or a denial of the possibility that ideas could possibly be ‘located’ anywhere. They simply drift down to us from the ether of creative energy, they surge up from our subconscious, they ‘hit’ us when we’re least expecting it. We don’t find them. They find us.


Well, partly rubbish.

It’s true that ideas do seem to come from nowhere. But ideas only come to those who seek them out (most of the time), and it’s the process of searching that will always lead to inspiration. It’s about living an eventful life, it’s about reading widely. But most importantly, it’s about thinking, everywhere you go and everything you read: what can I do with this idea?

Art is what comes out the other end when you consume a calorific diet of other people’s content, and digest it properly, and it builds into a form and shape that you simply can’t keep inside you any longer.

I won’t develop that image any further.

Happy searching.

Jon Deery

The best ideas are formed from the act of writing

As a person who spends a lot of time writing, it's weird taking a step back to work out where the inspiration really comes from.

Depending on the type of writing, ideas can come from all different places. But more often than not, the best ideas are formed from the act of writing itself. By picking up a pen and paper with no idea of where it's going to take you, the possibilities become endless.

Even though it may not feel like it, you often end up with so much more than you would have done if you'd just kept scrolling.

Reading books and articles, reflecting on personal experiences and taking inspiration from my own passions are always things that keep me writing. Being a person that does things - and never being afraid to try something new - allows me to create an interesting life which gives me things to write about.

Every night I write down a few highlights of the day, allowing me to keep my writing habit a daily ritual. Revisiting old parts of my life and thinking of all the stories I'll have to look back on in years to come will always be enough to make me bring pen to paper.

Lily Holbrook

Finding inspiration can be hard

Firstly, it's important to know that people who love to write are not motivated every day and I certainly come across 'writer's block' majority of the time. Writing novels is a lengthy process and finding inspiration can sometimes be hard especially with university work, part-time jobs, hobbies and other commitments. Some days I will be in a more creative mindset than other days and that's normal.

Here are some ways that I find inspiration to write:

  1. I love to watch a range of TV shows and films. Watching things can inspire me to want to create my own stories.
  2. I enjoy journaling and I write down my dreams when they are particularly vivid or memorable. I look back over these pages and attempt to make odd connections between ideas.
  3. I like going on walks alone through nature or walking somewhere busy and people-watching. It's fascinating to see how different people are living the exact same day as me in different ways. There's definitely a connection between walking and inspiration.
  4. I try to read books from a range of authors. To be a great writer, you should also be an avid reader to expand your knowledge. It's important to try and surround yourself with innovative and creative work to broaden your horizons.
  5. I sometimes switch up my writing environment from my bedroom to somewhere else. It was nice to write in cafes (before the pandemic). I also used to love writing in different countries / places in the UK I hadn't visited before. Seeing new places would inspire me to want to write about them as a way of remembering.
  6. Listening to music also helps a lot with when I'm lacking motivation or inspiration. Certain music can put me in a zone of deep concentration, perfect for me to free-write, jot down any ideas or create characters.

Kiera Furness

Something congeals

Inspiration is typically something that ‘strikes’ us: 
Here I sit, at the water’s edge, and, suddenly (bolt-from-the-blue): it hits me. 
So, what seizes us? 

I meet a good mate below the concrete walkway bridging Northumberland street and Northumbria university. Stairs to this walkway are just past this spot, behind the Laing. At the top, facing the smooth-cornered skyscraper opposite, I’m handed a cigarette.  In this motion something congeals— something I draw inwards. 

As opposed to the token phrases and gestures (stereotypes), something here dis-joins itself from the common order: some sign of an irrevocably singular encounter.  

This may only be expressed through the words we circulate, and therefore elusively, phantasmatically— 
but for the work (the fragment, the novel) this is enough.  

Humphrey Jordan

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