The Writer’s Instant Cure for Feeling Stuck

Carol Tice

Ever found yourself scribbling story ideas down as you’re driving away from your house to go on vacation?

That happens to me every time.

I have strong memories of where I was when I got many of my best writing ideas. Often, they happen somewhere besides my home office.

Same with big ideas for new directions to take my whole writing career. It seems like the minute I leave my usual spot behind, creativity blooms.

For instance, a couple years ago, I was at SOBCon in Chicago on a beautiful spring day, walking past the Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park (better known as “the bean”), trying to digest all the amazing, inspiring speakers I’d heard: Liz Strauss, Tim Sanders, and so many more.

Suddenly, I realized I knew exactly how to take this blog to the next level: I was going to pay for blog posts.

I immediately knew it was the exact right thing to do, despite the expense.

There was something about being out of my writing cave, getting exposed to all of the entrepreneurial energy and new ideas at this event, that it shook loose and suddenly, there was the answer.

It was the same with starting Freelance Writers Den. I’d thought about doing it, I’d mused about whether that would be a good idea.

But I came home from one conference committed to making it happen — and soon, within the next few months.

I don’t know if Freelance Writers Den would have ever ended up launching if I hadn’t had that change of perspective of getting out and meeting new writers and speakers.

As writers, we have a crying need to shake it up. To break out of our routine. To see new places and meet new people.

Without that, our creativity withers.

Where I’m going next

Which is why when I got a call a few months back from Surrey International Writers Conference asking me if I’d come present at their event next week, I jumped at the chance.

It’s been too long since I hit the road and met other writers. So I can’t wait to get there.

If you’re interested in meeting up live, feel free to join me in beautiful British Columbia. Online registration closes Monday, but I gather there will be on-site reg as well if you want to come last-minute.

I’m excited about this event because it has a tasty mix of sessions and presenters for every type of writer, from authors to reporters to bloggers.

I’m on a social media panel, and I’ll be teaching on how to earn from your blog, and how to market yourself as a freelance writer.

Before you bring it up in the comments, yes — going to conferences costs a decent chunk of money.

But here’s the weird thing: Looking back a year later, I have yet to attend a conference where I didn’t think the cost was paid back to me many times over in new ideas and initiatives that came out of my experience.

Getting out of your rut is always a good investment.

Where do you get your writing ideas? Leave a comment and tell us your favorite spots.




  1. Terri H

    As cliche as it sounds, I always seem to get new ideas when I dream. I tend to keep a little notepad next the bed to prepare for those unexpected shots of inspiration. Other than that, I get ideas while participating in my many classes.

  2. Celeste Smucker

    Oddly enough I just blogged about how to stay motivated after the high of a conference. I think conferences can be a real peak experience…there is a lot of excitement and you get to see what others are doing and how they are succeeding. The result is you open up to the possibility of that in yourself…something that tends to get blocked when you are dealing with life’s daily ups and downs. The real challenge is to take advantage of the insights and not let the old patterns get in the way when you get home. Sounds like you’ve done a great job with that Carol. You are a real inspiration to writers everywhere.

    • Carol Tice

      It’s true — the trick is coming home and executing on all the ideas that came to you. I usually big one big one I’ve GOT to do, but I do keep an idea list on my desk when I get home from conferences and try to hit all my ideas in the coming months.

  3. Carol J. Alexander

    My best comes while I’m trying to fall asleep. Never fails.

    • Carol Tice

      I know! And then you’re laying there going, “I should get up and write this down…” and still not falling asleep.

      Sometimes I find myself writing copy for business clients in my head as I’m laying there and it’s like, “Wow, this copy kills, I should get up and write it down,” but right now my office is back in my bedroom thanks to college student who’s moved back home and stolen my office, so I can’t turn on computer w/out waking up my hubby, and I usually bag it, and hope I remember it in the morning!

    • Ruan

      I know this one all too well! Do you know how many ideas I’ve also “lost” like this until months down the line when I suddenly get this flashback of “hey, I heard this somewhere before!”.

      I guess I should have gotten that little notebook alongside my bed a long time ago 🙂

  4. Stef G.

    Believe it or not, my best ideas come when I’m in the shower, in between shampooing and conditioning my hair. Once I’m dressed, I would fire up Notes and write the topic/idea/project plan down to make sure I don’t lose it. 🙂

  5. J. Delancy

    Almost anywhere except at my desk. Writing ideas seem particularly prone to jumping me when I’m washing dishes or standing in front of my lathe, both are places where I can’t stop what I’m doing easily to grab a pen. Once I’m at my desk the same ideas shun my very presence.

    Do well at the SIWC Carol.

  6. Tom Bentley

    Carol, I almost always get my best ideas while bike riding (often full sentences jump into my head for something I’m working on, and I keep repeating them to myself, so that I can remember). Maybe I should install a digital recorder on the bike.

    But I’ve found conferences to be great boosts to writing. They are expensive, but I try to make one a year. I did some writing and editing for the Guide to Literary Agents publication after meeting its editor at one conference, and wrote a piece for the San Francisco Chronicle travel section after meeting that section’s editor at another conference. I’m heading to Writer’s Digest West in a week to see how my fortunes fare there…

    • Carol Tice

      Oh cool — didn’t know Writer’s Digest had a live thang. There are SO many conferences out there, I can’t wait to check out the scene at SiWC, which I hadn’t heard of until they approached me.

      Built-in bonus: Chance to meet Diana Gabaldon, author of the awesome time-travel historical Outlander novel series! My goal is to not make an ass of myself before her greatness.

  7. Sarah L. Webb

    I also wrote a couple of posts that are similar, namely The Runaway Writer. Joyce Carol Oates runs when she’s stuck. For her it’s the physical activity AND the change of scenery. She likes to run when she’s traveling in different cities and countries.

    For me, I get my best ideas when reading, listening to podcasts, or watching interesting videos.

    I’m starting a savings account that’s meant specifically for conferences and retreats. I can’t wait to get to my first. Maybe it’ll be one that you also attend.


  8. Stacy Claflin

    I keep my stories in the back of my mind and find inspiration in the most surprising of places. Over the summer I was at a barbecue and got an idea for a scene that I was stuck on at the time. Another time we were driving through a rundown part of a town and that was inspiration for an upcoming scene. Inspiration can be anywhere, if we’re looking for it! 🙂

  9. Anne

    Good luck with the conference!

    It’s great to meet other writers. Writing can be a lonely job sometimes.

    I get my ideas from my family life mainly. I got a blog post two days ago (on my confidence site) based on something my daughter said about a doughnut (donut).

    Kids usually say funny or insightful things. You just have to listen to them with a bit of imagination 🙂

    • Carol Tice

      So true — I’ve got 2 posts coming up in the next few months, one from each of my two younger kids and things they said to me.

  10. Ruan

    My best ideas I get while driving. In the past I’ve also lost quite a couple of ideas like this as you can’t exactly write it down right there and then. Usually it’s on my way to do something scheduled, like a meeting with a client or something. Then when I get there time is not always at my disposal to brainstorm on the idea I had a couple of minutes ago, so I used to only remember them days or even weeks down the line.

    Then came smart phones…with recording capability…

    Now I never lose any ideas while driving anymore. At times I’ve even “written” complete articles this way recording it while I drive. So when I get a few minutes later on, it’s just jotting it down on the computer.

  11. Claudia Pesce

    Like someone else mentioned above, I get plenty of ideas in the shower. My sister just got her kid some of those Crayola bathtub markers kids use to scribble on the tiles – guess who needs a set of those! My ideas often get washed down the drain….

    Then I also get ideas while either walking or running – I try to jot those down as soon as I get home, but sometimes forget.

    Also, while falling asleep or waking up in the morning, which is a great way to get you out of bed early! But just like several of the folks here, most ideas come to me when I’m doing the most ordinary things.

  12. Techboy Rocky

    Writers definitely get stuck many times just because they are are human beings and sometimes one can get totally bored writing daily.. Going for a holiday, a movie can be a very wonderful thing for a writer…Sometimes we may get the best writing ideas when we are alone and listening to the music. I love your writing skills Carol and I keep trying my best to be in touch with your blog..

  13. Theresa Cahill

    Like many above, as I’m drifting off I’ve composed complete articles, first chapters, poems, and more in my head. And yes, I think, “Get up and turn on the computer!” But… Trusting somehow I’ll remember it all in the morning. Sigh!

    I did get a digital recorder. It’s by my bedside. The moment I got it, the ideas stopped flowing at bedtime. Talk about ironic.

    However, I also get inspiration from client phone calls, newspaper articles, other features in magazines or just an run-in/conversation with a stranger in a store. Or you see an interchange between people (not being nosy, but they aren’t that quiet about it). My neighbors inspire me. My son inspires me. And my husband constructively (and patiently) helps me hone my sentences/message.

    Ideas are everywhere. It’s the keeping track of them all that can be the stumbling block.

  14. Taylor

    Like some of the people above, I get my ideas just when I’m trying to sleep. Usually, I bump into something while trying to get my pen. 🙂

  15. Anca Dumitru

    It depends. It can happen when I listen to people talking about something they’re passionate about, or I watch a movie that I think may have a certain impact on the community, when I listen to music, or simply when I’m on the road.

    The thing is, if I don’t write an idea down immediately, it goes away in an instant. So I try keeping a notebook nearby (in my bag, on my bedside, desk, even in the kitchen 🙂 ) I sometimes use my phone voice recorder so I don’t miss it.

    Have fun in BC, Carol! Looking 🙂 forward to your posts about it when you’re back.

    • Carol Tice

      Oh, they’ll keep coming even when I’m gone…I work ahead. 😉

      Movies, TV and other media are always great fodder for ideas for me. I even developed a column I just ran weekly for a year with one client that was ALL about reviewing reality-TV shows! Always loads to riff on there.

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