Inspiration Perspiration

(Here’s one I made earlier… updated from September 1920)

My biggest writing challenge is thinking up stories.


I often read blogs and comments from writers whose stories spring up like weeds in their heads, jostling to be told.

My head is a cerebral wasteland where few shoots flourish. After decades of neglect, my imagination seems to have withered.

Advice from bloggers and magazine articles includes…

  • keeping a journal,
  • browsing personal ads for unlikely couplings,
  • re-imagining news items,
  • eavesdropping on conversations, and
  • people-watching.

Remember people-watching? I used to do it in another life before I had small children to keep an eye on. (Yes… that long ago!) My first husband and I would watch people in pubs and parks and imagine their conversations. I seem to have lost the knack – maybe because it’s so long since I sat in a pub or park (or anywhere) without something to do.


I like puzzles, as you will have gathered from earlier posts

Life has programmed me not to waste time, so I tell myself these are brain exercises to stave off mental decline (although physical exercise is anathema to me). The truth is, I wouldn’t do them if I didn’t enjoy them (nothing to do with having an excuse to sit). 

But while I’m working on a Sudoku or Kakuro, or maybe a cryptic crossword (applying more guesswork than decryption), my imagination doesn’t get a chance to break through.

Then, when I want it to, it sulks.

Is there such a thing as imaginative decline? 

Mine had no exercise for decades.

One of my writing group colleagues tells me his story ideas come when he’s cycling. Personally, I prefer four wheels, but other writers have advocated physical exercise as an imagination stimulant.

It is true that, before retirement, solutions to problems would regularly present themselves when I walked the dogs in the morning before work. These days, dog walking is altogether more relaxed and the dogs get more attention. Maybe I need to be firing at 6am pre-breakfast with a busy day ahead to get those synapses sparking.

inspisred pencil

However, I have managed to come up with a story every month for our writing group, as well as a poem for Deadlines for Writers monthly challenges. I don’t think this is to do with deadlines though. I’m used to deadlines. I can do deadlines.

I think it’s more to do with getting started, even when the topic doesn’t excite me. I’m not aiming to win any prizes; I just need something to submit for the meeting.

Once I’m writing, amendments present themselves. I only have to get started.

On every management course I ever attended, time-management was one of the modules. In my case, they were preaching to the converted. With four kids and three dogs, time-management underpinned daily life. This may be why I am reluctant to free-write with no identifiable end product. But the journal-writers have a point. Making myself ‘just write’ does seem to release the flow.

Photo by Jordan Benton on

It is now a few years since, I tackled a 24 Hour Story Competition (regularly offered by just to see if I could. I fully expected to forfeit my registration fee when the day came.

The theme and word count arrived in my inbox at 6pm UK time.

I slept on it.


I awoke convinced that my idea from the night before was rubbish, but I couldn’t think of a better one. While walking the dogs, a new ending presented itself. Further amendments came as I wrote.

blue happy book

I sent off my entry with ten minutes to spare.

It isn’t the best story I’ve ever written (See Danny Boy on this blog) but it received an honourable mention (along with many, many, many others…).

Maybe I need to believe that even abandoned stories aren’t a waste of time  and just start writing.

My imagination seems as reluctant to exercise as my body, but they tell me working out gets easier with practice. Occasionally, after freewriting a lot of rubbish that isn’t going anywhere, or scribbling a spider diagram, I may have a couple of thoughts that might – just – turn into stories.

Now, where did I put that notepad I once bought for random flashes of inspiration?


blackboard business chalkboard concept
Photo by Pixabay on


Where do you find your writing inspiration?


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16 thoughts on “Inspiration Perspiration

  1. Great post. I often stare at the blank page and I can’t imagine what to write. I’ve found that if I just start writing about a recent event or experience, the words eventually come, and some sort of deeper meaning finds it way onto the page. So I guess, you just have to start writing and the words will eventually organize themselves. Hugs, C

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great post, Cathy!
    First off, there is no such thing as imagination decline. As you said, when you’re working on these puzzles, the analytical mind is at work while your imagination is taking a nap. I would suggest that you not do so many puzzles. They are anathema to your imagination. I don’t think age has a lot to do with it.
    You could always go into Catwoman=^..^=’s The Pen & The Sword and work on the many prompts that are posted there. Just saying……………
    As for me, courtesy of being on the spectrum, my brain is very active. In fact, my brain activity interrupts the circadian rhythm that lets me know it’s time to sleep. This is across the board for most on the spectrum.
    Because my brain never rests my imagination is fertile and I rarely have a lack of ideas. That doesn’t mean all my ideas are good, though. Also, many times while writing my stories I don’t really have to plot out what happens. It just comes. Of course, this isn’t 100% of the time, but for the vast majority of it.
    When I first began writing seriously I had this idea that using prompts to write was cheating. Now I use them regularly. I also get ideas from the shows I watch, and from watching people. I’m a huge people watcher! I love watching people and imagining all kinds of scenarios about them in my head.
    My brain never shuts off and ideas are always coming, but that doesn’t mean all my ideas are good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean about the brain not shutting off. I’m useless at meditation and mindfulness, because my brain interrupts and I’ve forgotten it’s meant to be chilling out. My solutions to problems at work used to come when I was walking the dogs in the morning before I left home, but that doesn’t seem to be working the same way for stories. Right now I’m supposed to be rewriting my ‘practice novel’ for a 365 day challenge and most of the wordcounts I’ve recorded each day have been zero. 😦

      Liked by 2 people

  3. 1920 Cathy?
    Douglas Adams used to say that he would stare at a blank page until spots of blood appeared.
    I am trying to think about what to write on the topic of romance, the spots of blood are likely to appear first though.

    Liked by 2 people

          1. That is a very real possibility. Sometimes I’ll start out following someone and before I know it, my inbox is inundated. Like some dam burst!
            I can’t handle that and I have to unfollow them to maintain what little sanity I have left.
            These people live online 😲🤣

            Liked by 1 person

        1. The thing about bodice rippers is it can get darn expensive after awhile.

          I remember when I was in my 30s, I had never read a romance novel and I never had a desire to. For whatever reason, I was getting free books in the mail. They were those Harlequin Romance books.
          I couldn’t understand why I was getting these romance novels, but I thought I should read ‘just one’ so I can say that I’ve read one and I don’t like them.
          So, I chose one and began reading. Even though I had never read a romance novel before, it was so cliché, boring, and comical. Just as I expected it to be.
          The strangest part of the story came when Ms. Lily White, who was having this relationship with Mr. Swoon, mentioned how sorry she felt for her macho guy because he had a small…dingly dangly! That was just weird.
          Needless to say, that’s the last romance novel I’ve read.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Mills and Boon were the main publishers of romance when I worked in the public library. We always had waiting lists for all the new titles, and the readers were usually dumpy middle-aged women. I tried reading one once but couldn’t get past the second page (and, back then, I rarely abandond a book once started).

    Liked by 1 person

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