Need an Idea? Here’s 10 places to look…


So anyways, I was standing at the luggage carousel when inspiration hit.

My 8 hour flight from Hong Kong had taken 11 hours as a result of someone getting ill on board and having to be offloaded in Manila in the middle of the night. I’d left my hotel in Taiwan almost 18 hours before. I was tired and hungry.

The conditions, such as they were, for inspiration striking couldn’t have been further from perfect. Yet strike it did- just as the pushy, old person beside me trod on my blistered toe to reach for a bag that wasn’t even theirs.

What would happen, I wondered, if someone were to take the wrong bag all the way home? What part of that person’s life would they be taking with them? What if inside that luggage was a love letter, or a confession or a bucket list?

As I stood in the long “nothing to declare” line, I had plenty of time to develop the idea further.

What if it wasn’t a suitcase but a coat? What if the love letter or confession or bucket list was in the pocket of the coat?

What if it was a bucket list? When you found it, would you play it out, live it? Would it be a conscious decision or something that was more subliminal…something that just happened? What changes would it bring, what chaos would be created?

I had my idea for 2013 NaNoWriMo and Baby, It’s You. All I needed was some characters, a location, and 50,000 words… and victory in November would be mine…how hard could it be?

So, you want to give Nano a whirl this year, but you don’t have an idea…or you don’t think you have enough of an idea. How can you help the muse along?

Here are my top 10 suggestions:

1. Keep a journal…or a notebook. It doesn’t need to be something that you confess your darkest fantasies in…or it can be…but it should be somewhere that you can jot down snippets of conversations, make quick character sketches, ask a few “what if questions”. When you’re stuck, there could be a gem in here.

I was listening to a podcast the other day that featured Rob Stitch from the Working Dog Group here in Australia. They’ve been responsible for some real gems: The Castle, Frontline, The Hollowmen, Utopia… anyways, he was saying how he was in a meeting and someone pointed out the gluten free muffins.

‘Who is gluten free?’ someone else asked.


‘Who’s Carol?’

‘She left.’

‘Should we put the gluten back in?’

This exchange made it into an episode of Utopia.

Speaking of which, meetings are a rich source of ideas…just don’t tell my colleagues I said that.

2. Read. You’ll soon work out which genre you’re want to write by what you like to read. Reading voraciously for writers is a little like nutrition is for athletes. Chick lit, or women’s fiction, commercial fiction- call it what you will- is my thing to read and write…however while I’m actually drafting something new, I read crime fiction. Why? I want to keep the voice mine, and don’t want to be influenced by other writers during this part of the process. But, that’s just me.

3. Watch. TV shows and movies can be examples of amazingly good writing…they can also be sources of serious crap as well. Learn to recognize the difference.

4. Exercise. Some of my best ideas, or solutions to difficult scenes have come while I’ve either been walking or swimming up and down a black line.

5. Music. My single sentence idea for last years Nano came from the lyrics in a Bananarama song.

6. Art. Fashion designers get their inspiration from art, so why shouldn’t writers? Eddy on Absolutely Fabulous planned a whole kitchen around a door-knob. I’ve planned a bedroom renovation around a plate, and a dining room around the tiniest square of vintage wallpaper. Don’t knock it until you try it.

7. Nature. When I was choosing colours for the family room and kitchen earlier this year, I surrounded myself with paint swatches that looked like the beach feels on a moody day. Get outside and feel what comes to mind.

8. Travel expands your horizons, blows your mind and opens you up to new perspectives, ideas and cultures- and all of that is a breeding ground for inspiration. If you can’t physically take flight, do it virtually through the pages of a book, or a class, or something outside your normal comfort zone.

9. Newspapers and history books are great sources of human-interest stories. My idea for Big Girls Don’t Cry came from a news story I was watching while on the treadmill- about a pram that had been rescued from a Melbourne train track. It gave me my opening line and the rest followed. It’s since been cut, (I wrote about that here) but you get the idea.

10. Personal Experience. Of course. This is the whole write what you know thing- and who do you know better than yourself?

My point? You don’t necessarily need a fully formed idea…you don’t necessarily need to know how it all ends… November is a month to take ideas out for a test run- maybe there’s a full novel in it, maybe there isn’t…but you won’t know until you give it a go.

What about you? Where do you find inspiration?

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser