Find 1001 New Ideas for Articles and Stories

Updated on January 29, 2018
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

I teach creative writing to adults and I love helping my students improve their writing skills.

Leave the fog of the blank page behind you.
Leave the fog of the blank page behind you. | Source

Writer’s Block Can Happen at Any Time

It is so frustrating when creative ideas cease to flow. As a fellow writer, I can reassure you, you are not alone. Writer’s block happens to everyone occasionally. There are days when no matter what you do, the blank page (or screen) in front of you remains just that: blank.

Usually, a writer finds words flow onto the page without any problem. However, sometimes this stream of creatively is lessened or may even dry up completely. This is known as writer’s block. There can be many causes; overwork, bereavement, or illness to name just a few.

If this happens to you, try not to overthink the situation, but take steps to ease yourself back into the writing habit. There are a wealth of ideas and exercises to help you to get started again. With time and practice, there are tricks you can learn to overcome these dry periods.

Five Sources of Writing Inspiration

  1. Write about what you know.
  2. Look for a new angle on an old article.
  3. Read your local newspaper.
  4. Stand outside your front door.
  5. Be inspired by traditional folk tales and stories.

Holiday snaps spark memories.
Holiday snaps spark memories. | Source

1. Write About What You Know

I can hear you groan at what has become a cliché. However, “write about something familiar” is said so often because it is a good way to get your creative juices flowing. Still not sure how to begin? I suggest you look at a family photo or a picture from your last trip away. Study the detail of the photo for a few moments and then write down the answers to these questions.

Who is in the picture? What is their relationship to you? Where was the shot taken? Why were you there? Did you enjoy it? What did you like (or not like) about the occasion?

As you write, other memories will come back and you may find you now have the ability to write about something completely different and the unblocking exercise has worked. Or you could choose to write about the picture by forming a story or article around your answers to the questions.

What Inspires Authors to Write?

2. Look for a New Angle on an Old Article

Many topics are “evergreen”. This means the subject never really goes out of fashion. For example, you wrote something 5 years ago, but the content of the article is still of interest today.

Your original article may have described how to reduce the stress of moving house by planning ahead. You could produce a new piece with minimal effort by updating the older one. By this I do not mean “copy and pasting” your previous work. Your writing should always sound fresh and relevant. How can you do this?

First refresh your memory of the topic by reading your original article. Do not start writing the update just yet. Take a short break. Have a coffee or do some gardening. This will allow you to mull over what you have just read. When you return to your PC, write down the key points of the old piece, but do not refer to it as you write.

Now you want to make the new article sound current. Have you moved home recently or is there a celebrity house move you can refer to? Add some personal details about how stressed or relaxed you (or the star) found the experience.

Your new piece should contain the original helpful tips about moving, but reworded to make it different from the old. The hard facts about creating a stress-free removal are softened by items added from your (or the famous person’s) personal experience.

Watch This If You Have Writer's Block

3. Read Your Local Newspaper

A good source of inspiration for writers is the news. There is so much happening in the world every day. TV, radio and national broadsheets are only able to report on a tiny number of these events. Your local newspaper may be parochial but it can focus in on the detail and give a more subjective slant on the news. This gives you the opportunity to be controversial and capture an audience as you give an opposing viewpoint.

A good neighborhood news story can capture the zeitgeist better than the bland statement of facts put out by national networks. Use a local issue you feel strongly about to add emotion to your writing. Readers connect with writers who are enthusiastic and passionate.

Relax and get inspiration by reading the news.
Relax and get inspiration by reading the news. | Source

4. Stand Outside Your Front Door

If reading the local rag is not really your thing there are alternatives. You can use your own power of observation to get some ideas based on your locality. Get up from your computer and open your front door. What do you see? Are you in a busy urban street or are your looking out across acres of grassland? Perhaps you live in an apartment and your front door only opens onto a deserted corridor?

When was the last time you spoke to a neighbor? The mailman? The pizza delivery guy? Can you imagine yourself in their shoes? What kind of problems are they dealing with in their lives? Would they react differently from you to adversity? How? Why?

Go back to your desk and start writing.

There are ideas all around you. You just need to become aware of them.
There are ideas all around you. You just need to become aware of them. | Source

5. Be Inspired By Traditional Stories and Folk Tales

Most cultures have a strong oral tradition of story-telling. As each generation retells an old fable or folk tale it changes slightly to suit the audience and current fashions. To get your brain moved on from writer’s block, choose your favorite traditional tale and reimagine it to suit your own times. You can pick a story from any culture or century.

You could choose one from the “1001 Tales of The Arabian Nights” in which Scheherazade tells inventive tales to please the King and save her life. The best-known stories from this collection are "Aladdin" and "Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves." As the title implies this book has 1001 stories to inspire you.

However, my favorite source book for story ideas is The Classic Treasury of Aesop’s Fables. These tales often have birds and animals as their protagonists and have moral endings to emphasize a life lesson learnt. I have used one of these as an example (below) to help you understand this reimagining writing technique.

The original tale dates back thousands of years and was popularized by the storyteller Aesop in the 1st Century. It tells the story of the rivalry between the sun and the wind. They each try to prove they are the stronger as they use their power to make a man remove his coat. The moral of the tale is that gentleness and persuasion is more powerful than threats and force.

My aim in writing the story was to keep the original plot, but to alter one key aspect. I have reimagined Aesop's story by using the man's viewpoint rather than that of the sun and the wind. In this way, a completely new tale has been created.

The wind is trying to remove this guy's coat, just like in Aesop's tale.
The wind is trying to remove this guy's coat, just like in Aesop's tale. | Source

The Dream Competition by Beth Eaglescliffe

(A short story about a competition between the sun and the wind.)

The sharp cries of seagulls interrupted his dreams. George opened his eyes and looked around him at the crowded beach. "What a glorious day" he thought, and blissfully felt the warmth of the sun on his bare chest. He sighed contentedly.

The day had begun badly; grey, wet and miserable. Eventually the rain had eased and George had started to walk to the beach. There was a light breeze and he had pulled the hood of his waterproof jacket tightly around his face. Underneath he was wearing a thick wool sweater. As he walked, the cold wind grew stronger and stinging fingers of rain plucked at his layers. It seemed to follow him as he dodged between the beach huts to get shelter from its cold blasts. The weather was really wild and seemed more like deepest winter than fall, but he was determined that cold weather and icy rain would not curtail his walk.

George gritted his teeth and made his way to a sheltered cove out of the biting wind. He sat down on an old deck-chair to take a short rest. As he sat there, the warmth from the sun grew stronger. George removed his jacket and eventually took off his thick woolen sweater too. The deck-chair was comfortable and he dozed. In his dreams he heard the voices of the sun and the wind discussing him. The more he heard, the more he realized that he had been their plaything.

“Leave him be,” said the sun. “You know I’ve won the bet. It was my warm sunshine that made him remove his sweaters and start to enjoy the day." Eventually the sun and the wind got bored with arguing. The wind was exhausted and the sun's fire was dipping in the sky. George yawned and smiled to himself. “Give me gentle sunshine rather than violent thunderstorms every time” he thought.

Beach deckchairs are silent witnesses of the sun and wind's competition.
Beach deckchairs are silent witnesses of the sun and wind's competition. | Source

Be Sociable And Learn About People

Non-writers sometimes assume that authors lead isolated lonely lives. Of course, some do but most live in the real world and use their personal experiences to enhance their writing. Do not be shy, staying at home will not improve your creativity. Socializing is a great way to understand how people interact.

If you are quiet and have a small circle of friends then join a class and learn a new skill. Meeting new people will put you in touch with what matters in your community. You may find like-minded aspiring authors who can share tips with you on how they put words on the blank page. Being a writer is a great excuse to socialize, but do not overdo it! Once you have some new ideas for topics to write about, then you must get them down on paper. Successful writers have a clear goals and are disciplined in how much time they spend at their craft.

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  • Kristen Howe profile image

    Kristen Howe 6 months ago from Northeast Ohio

    Beth, great tips in this hub. It can be applied anywhere, even for over here at Hub Pages (and their niches.) I'm going to consider your ideas and put them into good use this fall.

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