The truth about… Inspiration


I have really struggled lately with coming up with blog ideas – even just an idea for this post has not been particularly fruitful. So, I’m resorting to a post format that I’ve read before many times – the ‘banish writer’s block by writing about your writer’s block’ post. Other people might just decide to put their writing on the back burner until a good idea strikes but, as the custodian of a living linky I not only feel the need to publish at least this one new article a week, but I want and need to keep exercising my brain in this way. Columnists who are paid to produce a weekly piece can’t just drop a week or two (although paid columnists probably have a bit more thinking space than I do!).

Back when I was interviewing authors professionally for The Book Monster, the classic (and not particularly original) question was always “where do you get your ideas?”. I think one of the easiest answers to that question is “through reading”. Other peoples’ ideas can sometimes generate ideas of your own, but then sometimes, it can be a fine line between ‘having your own take’ and outright plagiarism. I’ll admit that last week’s ‘Truth about’ post Why I’m not a Homes and Interiors Blogger was directly influenced by a post from last year by Lisa of How to be a Domestic Disgrace called Why I’m not a Fashion and Beauty Blogger. I pretty much just used her idea as a format (I hope she sees it that way!). Anyway I’m a big fan of the expression ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ 🙂

The other day I came across another blogger’s idea which I loved. Hannah of Mum’s Days started the year with what she calls a ‘specific’ resolution – to visit each of the 45 castles in the county of Northumberland in 2015 with her pre-schooler, inviting other local bloggers to join them on their quest where and when it suits. Apparently Northumberland has the highest percentage of castles of any country in England, and I’m kind of jealous because I’m hundreds of miles away but I do love a good castle!

It got me thinking about the idea of the ‘high concept’ challenge. I’ve always thought this kind of thing is quite clever ever since I read Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks – which essentially took the bog standard concept of travel literature and threw in that comedy element which made the story less about Ireland as a landscape and more about human nature, or at any rate the nature of the Irish and how they reacted to this eccentric Englishman on his bizarre quest. Then there was  I am Dave Gorman in which DG travelled around the world meeting up with other people called Dave Gorman (mostly men!) after which his sidekick, Danny Wallace, got in on the act and produced a series of high concept non fiction books from Yes Man in which he attempts to answer in the affirmative to every yes/no question that is thrown his way, to Join Me, in which he puts out a personal ad calling for people to simply join him – for no specified reason and with no end. I kind of loved this as it was unexpectedly a huge success and morphed into a kind of ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ army.

So, the point to all this is that I was reminded that I have always quite fancied coming up with my own little high concept challenge. But after brainstorming for about five days straight (on and off!) I haven’t yet found my niche. What has occurred to me is that the kind of people writing those books? Essentially young, single men who seem to have all the time in the world to devote to the task at hand. I can’t really commit to cycling across 7 continents in 5 days or starting up a cult worshipping misshapen vegetables (?) or, to be honest, even joining a book group right now. If Hampshire had 45 castles? I would probably struggle – Hampshire’s a pretty massive county (although Northumberland is significantly bigger so I’m guessing Hannah is going to be covering some miles!).

I would love to tune into the loves of my life – cinema, books, travel, cycling, tennis, kitchen experimentals, days out – but I am lacking in the time and resources and freedom to pursue even the most low concept version of most of these activities nowadays.

Maybe I’ll start that cult after all – anyone care to join me?

misshapen carrot


And then the fun began...

35 thoughts on “The truth about… Inspiration

    • It’s a cute cartoon isn’t it? I guess I haven’t really written about my life enough recently, I’ve been waiting for the ‘big’ ideas to come along! I went through a stage of going out and making time for bloggable activities on a regular basis at one point or so it seems, but the winter has been a bit of a damp squib lately! X

  1. Oh, writer’s block! I hate those creative lows! It’s amazing to me how I can have stretches of time where I come up with a million ideas followed by long, uncomfortable droughts. Inspiration is fickle! I can totally relate to not have any of the resources (internal or external!) to do much of anything. It always seems to cycle back around though!

    BTW, I’ll totally join your cult 😉
    Brandyn Blaze recently posted…The Truth About Mommy Blogging (Part 2)My Profile

    • Ooh my cult’s taking off! He hee! I think you are just a completely different kind of blogger to me – you do it professionally so you have various reviews and you do all your regulars like the Gratitude List. I guess I should just get more organised but for this linky (The Truth about…) and for ones like Share with Me and even The List, I like to come up with something kind of unique (to me at least!) so that’s a lot of pressure to put on myself! X

  2. You have my upmost sympathy regarding writers block – I’ve stared into the blank screen way too many times!
    I think my brain gets more fuddled when I feel rushed (which is most days) time seems to be something I have less and less of these days.
    I’m always impressed by other people’s ‘challenge’ ideas too – I’m trying something with new recipes at the moment, I figure we’ve got to eat after all!!
    Best of luck ‘unblocking’!
    JoyandPops recently posted…How Do Parents Find Time To Blog?My Profile

    • I think you’re right about the brain fuddle when rushed – you feel like you are under pressure to write in very small time windows and suddenly, there’s just nothing but dead air… Foodie challenges sound like a lot of fun I must say! X

  3. Oh Sam, you do make me giggle… love your sense of humour! I hope the block gets unblocked real soon and you find your niche. Sounds like you have a lot going on in your personal life, which I know you can’t talk about here. If you ever need a shoulder feel free to email me hon xxx
    Reneé @ Mummy Tries recently posted…Can You Help? #BTBYMy Profile

    • Reneé I can assure you that there’s not much going on my personal life 😉 and what I mean by that is that the main source of my frustration lies within myself and my own abilities. Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment though – sorry if I led you to the wrong end of the stick 🙂 X

  4. Well I thoroughly enjoyed your post, as always! I think you could write about a sack of spuds and find a way to make it interesting and entertaining. It’s not easy having a family and finding the head space to think creatively and write. I’m finding it a real challenge. xx
    teacuptoria recently posted…Living with alopeciaMy Profile

    • Aw that’s such a sweet thing to say Tor! I always find it immensely gratifying when anyone compliments my writing or writing style because essentially I have no other way of knowing whether I am totally deluded about what I’m doing! It is so massively challenging finding the headspace in our busy lives isn’t it? I honestly don’t know how some people have so much consistent output on their blogs, but I guess like Aby says, it’s just a matter of organisation! Xx

  5. It’s hard when you’re stuck in a creativity black-hole – there have been times when I’ve written about writer’s block just to try and get unblocked again. I love Hannah’s idea too and wish there were more castles near where I live as I would love to do something like that – although the gold postbox challenge is still on the go for us. Good luck with getting unblocked and finding your niche and thank you for hosting your fab linky – always love to join in 🙂
    Louise recently posted…Birthday surprisesMy Profile

    • Ah yes, you’ve just reminded me of your little quest with the benches round London and the Paddington Bears – I can see how you would be totally into a little high concept challenge too – we should devise one together! (Are you a Londoner?) I know someone who has visited loads of the gold postboxes but she has grown up children and seems to have the freedom to go off travelling alone sporadically too. I did think about her when I was writing this post! Thanks for always joining in Louise 🙂 Xx

  6. Oh I’ve written about the ‘writers block’ before….it soon passes! Seriously, I think us bloggers can pluck an idea out of anywhere. If I’m struggling, I usually start reading magazines or the newspaper or other blogs. Eventually an idea strikes. On a course once, I was encouraged to read an article and think on ways to expand it or research the idea further. That sometimes helps. Or failing that….blog about blogging! I am always in awe of people that can come up with genius ideas but i am NEVER one to complete a task so know that I’d fail straight away!
    Suzanne recently posted…In Defense of Over-sharingMy Profile

    • I knew it! So many people end up writing about writer’s block at some point in their writing lives! The trouble with the whole reading thing, is that you’ve got to have the time to do the reading in the first place and little people are putting paid to that right now! I know what you mean about completing tasks – I guess that’s what makes it such a massive challenge and also, why you need to pick your challenge so carefully, so that you are continually engaged with it. Xx

  7. I go through fits and starts, sometimes my brain is buzzing, other times I have zero motivation and zero ideas which is usually when I am exhausted and lost any brain ability, like at the moment! I think you’re right to keep fighting though as I do find the act of writing inspires more writing. I understand what you mean about the big ideas, I would love to write a book but am yet to have an inspiring enough idea, or the time to do it! 🙂 xx
    Caroline (Becoming a SAHM) recently posted…#MaternityMondays week 8My Profile

    • I think you have a pretty great excuse at the moment Caroline, with a four month old baby! I know what you mean about writing bringing on more writing too as well, once I get going it tends to flow so that’s nice to know. I’d love to write a book like that too – I guess the dream would be some kind of high concept travel literature – ha ha – never going to happen 🙂 X

  8. We all have our own techniques for when the dreaded block occurs., but my never-fail solution (at least, it’s not failed so far!) is to either take a photo or trawl back through my phone albums for a recent one I haven’t yet used in a post. It’s amazing how reliable that always seems to prove as a trigger for a new idea.

  9. Oh, I can relate to this at the moment Sam, I’m struggling outside regular projects (they give me a focus so help with the block). But, I’m feeling rather uninspired otherwise… Tim’s idea is one I use a lot, I can generally come up with something if an image is the focus. Hope it passes lovely, and I’m always around for a chat if you need xx
    Sara (@mumturnedmom) recently posted…The Truth About: playing in the snowMy Profile

    • Ah thanks Sara. Your prompts sometimes bring something immediately to mind and sometimes they just send me into a tailspin or leave me completely clueless (notice my joining in has been a bit patchy lately!). I really do think that is a time thing though, because there was a point where i had a little pocket of time each week and I always felt inspired and motivated during those periods. Thanks for the offer of a chat but I think sometimes just writing actually helps to get past a bit of a stagnant phase! X

  10. If that carrot tastes as good as it looks I’m in for a ritual sacrifice!
    You are right to say that inspiration can be hard to find, but of course once you found it it can be even harder to find time to follow it.
    In terms of writing and blogging I find 750 words or the morning pages exercise works best. Excuse the comparison, but some freewriting in the morning removes the dried up scab of daily thoughts wound up around routine and releases the stream of fresh blood and fresh ides.
    Joanna @mumbalance recently posted…Point + Shoot/ Living Arrows – Bring back the sandpit!My Profile

    • Oh I definitely write better in the morning but unfortunately I just don’t have time in the mornings!! I’m either getting the kids ready for the school run or I’m on my way to work. Glad to hear that there are potential followers for my cult though 😉 X

  11. The block hasn’t hit yet….I’ve been blogging 6 weeks lol! But your posts are always so well written and always food for thought so I wouldn’t worry just yet! xx #thetruthabout

  12. For someone with writer’s block, you are doing a pretty good job of masquerading as someone with no writer’s block whatsoever. I think I’ve commented or written about this before. I get the opposite of writer’s block; writer’s constipation. I have too many things I need to write, but they’re backed up against this one mofo of a post that I need to get out first. More often than not, I forget about the other backed up posts by the time the constipated one gets out (if only real-life constipation worked this way).

    I like and agree with Tim’s tip. Go through your photos – they always inspire me, and I frequently take so many with a blog post in mind. Good luck for next week (o; x

    Fiona @ Free Range Chick recently posted…The Truth About Recipe PostsMy Profile

  13. I love your posts, especially your honesty, so please, just keep telling us what’s going on in your head and that’s good enough – no flashes of inspiration needed!
    Saying that, when I am feeling creative, I always jot as many ideas down as I can. Then when I’m hit with a less inspired day, I have something to fall back on. Often, I don’t end up writing about my original idea but at least it’s food for thought.
    Great post lovely x
    Jude recently posted…On the agony of a teacher-crush.My Profile

    • That means a lot coming from you Jude – I love your posts too! Glad to know that my mental diarrhoea is considered entertaining! 🙂 You’re right about jotting down ideas too. I’m a bit rubbish at doing that – maybe I’m just not having any ideas! X

    • You could definitely have lie ins and private wees Elfa! I’m all for that! Tiredness is a huge factor, eh? Although some people use their insomnia as a bit of extra writing time so go figure! X

  14. If it makes you feel any better I’ve been having writers block too. The one thing is rolling round my head at the minute is the one thing that I have told myself I won’t be blogging about but it makes other ideas really hard to focus on.
    I’m definitely up for the cult, I’ve not stopped staring at the carrot shaped like a foot for about 5 minutes xxx
    Not A Frumpy Mum recently posted…Why I’ll Never Be Outstanding!My Profile

    • Oh I so know how that feels Jo! It’s frustrating sometimes when your mind is full of one thought like that and you can’t switch to another track. Glad my misshapen carrot foot is focusing your mind 😉 X

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