One Percent Inspiration?

Francesca Capaldi Burgess considers ‘writer’s block’.

‘I don’t know what to do for the blog this week,’ I told my daughter, who promptly replied, tongue firmly in cheek, ‘What about writer’s block?’ Ha ha, I thought, then decided it was actually a good idea.

First of all, I don’t really believe in writer’s block. That is to say, I’ve never suffered from it. As someone who does suffer from time to time with depression, I do often get a kind of fuzziness that makes it hard to work, but that is more of a brain mush. At those times I still have ideas, so store them away in one of my ‘ideas’ books until I’m functioning better.

Interestingly, my other daughter told me a while back that she doesn’t believe in depression, but then she has never suffered from it. I think it often goes with the writing territory, to do with the introspection experienced by many writers.

But I digress. Even though I don’t suffer from writer’s block, I still have ways to get the creative juices flowing. Flicking through newspapers often elicits ideas (especially the tabloids) as do real life magazines, an overheard conversation, a documentary on the TV, music, a walk on the beach, a train journey, family documents, paintings…

A couple of years back I entered the ‘Flash a famous phrase’ competition, where I had to write a 500 word fiction based on a famous phrase. I chose ‘Every picture tells a story’ and extended an unsuccessful flash fiction written for a previous comp based on one of several paintings. I’d picked an 18th century painting, ‘Jean Abercromby, Mrs Morison of Haddo’, calling her instead Mrs Ross of Westwick, and imagined what she was really thinking while sitting for the portrait. It was great fun, as well as gaining me a 3rd place in the comp.

If you haven’t done so already, why not  pay a visit to an art gallery, or even a museum, purely for inspiration? Whether you think that the inspiration to perspiration ratio is 1:99, 1:2, 1:3, or whatever version you’ve come across (there are many!), it’s still good to have a place to start. As well as paintings, photographs can inspire too.


Do these photographs inspire any ideas for stories?

Do my photographs inspire any ideas for stories?


Having concentrated a lot on novels the last year, I’ve decided I really need to get back to writing some short stories, which is where I started and where I’ve so far had success. I’ve still got a lot of ideas to work on, but I’d also like to try the ‘Story Cubes’ my daughter gave me. There are nine cubes, with pictures on each side. I’ve just thrown four, and this is what came up:
cubes small


Hm. Any ideas, anyone?





Rory’s Story Cubes

Portrait of Jean Abercromby, Mrs Morison of Haddo by Allan Ramsay




9 thoughts on “One Percent Inspiration?

  1. I love the story cubes. I agree with you wholeheartedly about ‘writer’s block’. It’s become a convenient excuse for not writing, one of these overused phrases, cliches almost, which have become meaningless with overuse.Writing is not easy, and staring at the empty page or the blank unyielding computer screen can be a pretty dispiriting experience, but a it’s a matter of commitment and sheer tenacity. When we were teaching we couldn’t say: ‘Got teacher’s block, can’t reach today.’ We just had to get on with it. As far as inspiration is concerned I can’t pin point any particular stimuli, but I know that with poetry, a phrase or, even a single word, can create some mental excitement which leads to an idea. I have always found travel is inspirational, as it takes me away from the familiar and mundane, but I also know that my background calls to me frequently, and fragmented memories can move the errant muse into action.

  2. ‘Teacher’s block’, I like that, Angela! Or engineer’s block, doctor’s block, etc. I find my background often has an influence on my writing, even when I’m not aware of it initially. Every experience in life is useful to a writer.

  3. I find when I can’t think what to write if I just start typing anything then the good stuff follows, well sometimes. While that might lead to a lot of deleting afterwards there’s nothing worse than looking at a blank page wondering what to write. I do agree with all the other comments, if it’s your job you can’t just say I don’t feel like it today you have to get on with it and writing is no different. Elaine x

  4. Even randomly opening a dictionary and (with eyes closed of course) pointing to a word can sometimes generate something magical. Though I rarely enter now, I used to cite the Saturday afternoon competition on Write Invite as an example of overcoming writers’ block. It’s amazing how if you’ve paid £4 to enter you can come up with a complete short story within 30 minutes.

    • I’ve always admired you for entering Write Invite, Natalie, and think it sounds quite a scary prospect. Of course we have done similar exercises in The Write Place, and it always amazes me how we all manage to think of a story. A dictionary is a great way to kick start an idea, as I guess any book would be.

  5. And in case anyone’s wondering about the photographs, from the top left going clockwise: Lullingstone Park, Kent; Amsterdam in December; my shadow on a Devon beach; garden at Arundel Castle; Littlehampton beach; ermine moth larvae webs.

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