How To Become A Creative Writer
& Figure Out What You Should Write

A lot of people don't think that they're creative enough to be writers, or just don't have any idea what they should even write about. In fact, creativity is a skill that anyone can develop, and knowing what you should write about simply requires you to get in touch with what you like and know. Here's how you can do it!

Table of Contents

Broaden your reference pools

Writers don't just pull their ideas out of thin air. They take inspiration from anything and everything, whether it's other books, movies, history, the news, scientific discoveries, etc. Don't limit your intake to fiction, let alone fiction with the exact specific genres or themes you want to write. Originality comes from pulling together ideas that you don't often see put together, so the more material you have to draw inspiration from, the better your odds are of coming up with something truly original.

Make sure your reference pools include real life, and lots of it. Make a habit of observing people, whether in real life or online. Read the news. Watch historical documentaries. And don't just focus on the biggest and most well-known historical events, either - look into some of the smaller, lesser known topics. Learn about scandals. Learn about scams. Look into weird short-lived fads. Find out why we do the everyday things we take for granted. There's a wealth of inspiration there, plus having a solid understanding of the real world can help you create fiction that feels realistic - even if it's set in a faroff fantasy world.

Figure out & write down the following

The next step is to start collecing ideas and concepts that you can do something with and determine what resonates with you or not. Grab a notebook or create a new document, and start writing down as much of the following as you can:

How you feel about general themes and elements. Write out how you feel about assorted themes and elements, and be specific as possible. List examples. For example:


When you aren't sure what you should put into your own story, you can use this list to help you decide what you want to do. Build stories that incorporate the things you like while avoiding, subverting, or reframing the things you didn't.

How you felt about individual works. Think about a few works you had strong feelings about, whether positive, negative, or both. For the things that you liked, you might write something like:


For things that you didn't like, you should add what you might have done differently, like so:


Again, this will help you decide what you should or shouldn't do in your own stories.

A wishlist of things you want to see in fiction. Write down a list of things you've wanted to see more in fiction. Ever wished someone would write a story about a geeky werewolf girl? Ever wanted to see a superhero with braces? Did you want to see a villain who acted like your seventh grade math teacher? Write it all down. Later, you can come back to this list for writing ideas.

A list of the most horrible or aggravating things you've seen people say or do and/or the most awful and despicable people you've ever met. This might not be the most fun section to write, but you can refer to it for inspiration when you're trying to build up a truly despicable antagonist.

A list of the most helpful life lessons you've ever learned. You can use them as plot material by creating narratives where the protagonists learn one or more of these life lessons.

Non-fiction topics you're interested in or experienced with. All fiction, even science fiction and fantasy, needs to be grounded in reality in some way. JRR Tolkien's experience in the first world war gave him personal insight that helped him write the war-heavy Lord of the Rings. The more you know about the real world, the more knowledge you have to draw inspiration from. This can help you create stories and settings that feel both plausible and fresh to your audience. Don't worry if your interests or experiences don't seem very exciting - everything has potential for something!

Any other topic or subject matter that seems neat or fascinating. Write 'em all down, no matter how trivial they seem. If you're ever bored or need inspiration, you can pick something from this list to research.

Interesting things you've observed or learned. Write down any details or trivia that catch your attention, even if you can't think of any use for them at the moment. Don't forget to note whether you got it from a reliable source (EG, a well-researched book or someone with first-hand experience), or whether the source might be questionable for some reason (EG, a TV show, an uncited social media post, a rumor, etc.). Anything that falls into the "questionable" category, you should research before treating as fact.

A list of things that seem silly, weird, or frivolous to you. Good writers try to expand their understanding of the world and exercise their empathy for others; this helps them write creatively and authentically. Write down some things that you've brushed as silly, weird, or frivolous, then at some point take a day to research one of them with a non-judgmental attitude.

Generator tables. Generator tables are numbered lists of ideas that you roll dice to choose one at random. You can make your own, or you can print out some pre-made ones here.

If you can't come up with very much right now, don't worry. Just write down what you can for now, and in the future try to be more conscious and mindful about what you feel about things and why you feel that way.

Accept that you can't be just like those other writers.

Some people get stuck on the idea that in order to be a good writer, they need to be just those other writers they admire. They might think that they can't write a good vampire story unless their vampires are modeled on Bram Stoker's Dracula, or they might think they need to imitate the prose style of some author who lived a hundred years ago, or they think that their fantasy story won't be any good unless it's as long as The Lord of the Rings. This is very, very wrong. The reality is that good writing comes from a place of authenticity and takes advantage of your personal strengths as a writer. You can't do either of those things if you're trying to be a writer you're not.

Instead, you need to find and write what works for you. You need to find your own voice, your own style, and your own niche. You need to write what you want to write, not try to impress, imitate, or compete with someone else. Maybe you like Tolkien's elves, but you're not really feeling the whole epic war thing. Maybe you like the mood of Dracula, but you have no reason to write in Victorian prose, let alone the Victorian era. That's fine. Keep what you like the most, discard the rest, and fill in the blanks with something that does resonate with you. Don't be afraid to put your own personality on what you write!

Experiment and practice

You won't necessarily know what is or isn't for you until you actually try writing it. Experiment with different styles, genres, types of characters, etc. Notice which ones you have the most fun with or feel the most appealing, and which ones you don't actually like that much. Aim to build off and around the things that you like; don't focus too much on the stuff you really don't. If fractured fairytales are your jam, go for it. If writing romance bores you to tears, don't write romance stories.

That said, never assume that because you're not good at writing something at first means it's not for you. Real life isn't like those stories where the main characters know they're meant for something because they show great talent for it on their first try. In real life, things take practice, and lots of it. So if you can't seem to get something right at first, keep trying. If it starts stressing you out, take a break and try something else for awhile, but try to come back to it eventually. If you still don't like it, or if it fails a KonMari test at this point (IE, you feel no joy at the thought of continuing on with it), then feel free to move on. Sometimes you just gotta admit that something's not working out for you and move on.

Don't forget, no creative effort is ever a waste. Even if it doesn't turn out how you wanted, it's still valuable practice that helps you refine your skills and figure out your own personal style. If nothing else, you gain a better understanding of what you don't like or want to do, which helps you narrow down what you actually do what to do.

You might also be interested in:

"Is This A Good Idea For My Story/Setting/Character?" - How To Answer This For Yourself!
"How Can/Should I Do This Thing With My Story/Setting/Character?" - How Figure It Out For Yourself!
"Help! I'm Worried That My Idea Is Too Cliche!" - What To Do When This Happens
"Help! I Need Ideas For My Story/Setting/Character!" - How To Get Ideas For Yourself!

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