Get Inspired: 7 Ways to Find Creative Story Ideas

Need to produce a short film in a week or write a story on a tight deadline, but running low on inspiration and creative story ideas? Here are a few tricks you can try out that will help you get inspired fast when you’ve come down with a bad case of writer’s block.

Watch TV

Remember all those suggestions you got as a kid to turn off the TV? Or studies that say that people who watch little to no TV have longer lives? Forget that. If you’re a screenwriter or storyteller, watching a good TV show can jump start your creativity. If you happen to binge on an entire series, in addition to temporarily turning you into a hermit it might just give you the spark of an idea for a TV series of your very own. As someone who writes TV pilots and spec scripts, I always consider watching TV research for potential stories. Judging act breaks, noting story arcs, and observing character development while watching an episode of your favorite show is a good way to polish your writing without actually writing.

Look at Photos

Photography is my favorite visual artistic medium because looking at an individual photo is like being dropped into the middle of a story. Whether looking at a museum’s photo exhibit, a photojournalist’s Instagram feed, or the photos on the front page of the New York Times, looking at an intriguing picture begs the question “What happened right before this photo was taken” and “What happened after?” Even if the story behind the photo has been explained, it’s still a good exercise to imagine your own story surrounding the picture and its subject.

Read a Book

It’s a simple equation, really. The more you read, the better you’ll write. There might be a line of exposition, dialogue, or action moment that causes your mind to spin off into the seed of a story idea of your own. By reading novels, you tend to absorb your favorite authors’ writing styles and then subconsciously mash them up with your voice into a writing style that is uniquely your own.

The more you read, the better you’ll write.

Visit an Art Museum

Whether studying a statue, triptych, tapestry, or painting that’s modern or classic, just the experience of being in a museum is inspiring. There’s something about literally being walled in and surrounded by creative works and masterpieces that can get your creative juices flowing.

Take a Walk

Sometimes just getting up from your desk and getting away from the computer can open you up to a flood of ideas. If you can go outside and engage your senses with everything happening in your neighborhood, even better. Absorbing sights, sounds, and smells are a good way to shake off writer’s block and get inspired.

Sit in a Cafe

It doesn’t matter if you come armed with a book or laptop, sitting in a cafe and listening in other people’s conversations can lead to tons of stories even characters. And it’s especially great to be around people talking if you have to write or edit dialogue. Be that fly on the wall and really listen.

See a Movie

Aside from watching an episode of TV, seeing a great movie is a wonderful way to get inspired. When time and work permits, I love heading to a movie theater on a weekday afternoon because I often leave the darkened theater and head out into the light, my brain churning with creative story ideas of my own. Being inspired by a good movie doesn’t necessarily mean wanting to emulate or reproduce it, but it does mean feeling compelled to create a story of your own that is equally good. And that’s an awesome feeling.