Goodreads Blog

Elizabeth Gilbert's Top 10 Tips for Writers to Stay Inspired and Kick-Start Your Creativity

Posted by Cynthia on October 26, 2015
The dreaded blank page. You just can't find that perfect opening line. Or maybe you’ve finally hit the crucial point in your story only to find that – poof! – inspiration has vanished. Whether you’re a seasoned author or someone struggling to get those first scenes down, there's always a time where the words stop flowing. Elizabeth Gilbert, whose most recent book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, delves into the many ways we can spark creativity in our lives, recently answered some questions from readers via Ask the Author on Goodreads. It’s no surprise that many of her answers offered encouragement and support to other writers. Read on for 10 ways to conquer that blank page!

Rate this book
Clear rating

Tip #1: Start Writing.

“At some point today, sit down with paper or a laptop, and set a timer for 15 minutes. You are not allowed to stand up until the 15 minutes are over. During that 15 minutes, write something. Anything — a letter, a poem, a list of people you hate, a prayer, all your favorite words, a childhood memory, a dream. Something. When the timer goes off, you're done. Pat yourself on the back. You did it! Now do the same thing tomorrow. And the next day. You can do anything for 15 minutes a day. Trust me – stuff will start to happen.” Click here for the full answer.

Tip #2: Be Creative Every Day

“Don't give up on your creativity! Can your creativity trust YOU? Are you really showing up for it? Or are you waiting for inspiration to magically find you? You don't have to work long hours on your creative ideas; just do a little bit every day.” Click here for the full answer.

Tip #3: Go Looking for Inspiration

“Most of the inspiration I found in life was because I went looking for it. I spent my 20's traveling all over the country and world, working in all sorts of different jobs, talking to everyone I met, seeking ideas everywhere.” Click here for the full answer.

Tip #4: Surround Yourself With Optimists

“I don't care how smart and clever people may be; if they are addicted to a dark view of the world, I don't want them in my house or anywhere near my life. It's too heavy. For me, the most inspirational people are the ones who put their shoulders up against the wheel of despair and PUSH back really hard — not just once, not just a few times in their lives, but every single day.” Click here for the full answer.

Tip #5: Dare Yourself to Keep Working

“I dare myself. I set all kinds of dares. "I dare you to write for ten more minutes....I dare you to read five more pages of this book you need for research....I dare you to edit today for a half hour." I can never resist a dare. And when daring doesn't work, I'm not above bribery. (Ice cream today? ONLY IF YOU WRITE FIVE PAGES.)” Click here for the full answer.

Tip #6: Trust Your Curiosity

“Follow it always. If something — anything, no matter how silly or seemingly useless or trivial — is interesting to you, pursue it. Everyone is waiting for lightning to strike, but the creative journey is more of a scavenger hunt than it is a tower of flame.” Click here for the full answer.

Tip #7: Create a Ritual

“Nothing I have ever found works better as a ritual for writing than research and preparation.” Click here for the full answer.

Tip #8: Don’t Believe in Writer’s Block

“We diagnose ourselves with “writer's block", as if we have come down with a disease. I believe that what we call "writer's block" is usually a misdiagnosis of some actual other emotional problem that you're having. That problem could be one of many real things: Anxiety, self-doubt, self-hatred, extreme competitiveness, alcoholism, depression, perfectionism, existential despair, etc. Those are all real conditions, but "writer's block" is not a real condition.” Click here for the full answer.

Tip #9: Write for Yourself

"I never promised the universe I would be a GOOD writer; I just promised I would be a writer. Period."Click here for the full answer.

Tip #10: Imagine Your Reader

“I never begin writing a book unless I know exactly whom I am speaking TO. Each one of my books was written to a different person in my life — and I write the book as though I am telling that person a story. So choose someone. Someone you love, ideally. Then sit down and tell the story to that person.” Click here for the full answer.

To see all of Elizabeth Gilbert’s answers, click here. What about you? What’s your go-to secret for staying inspired and being productive?

Comments Showing 1-10 of 10 (10 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Marcia (new)

Marcia Fine As authors we all do some of these; however, Gilbert's ideas reinforce more of what we need to do, especially being creative every day. Our brains have to keep working.
Marcia Fine, PARIS LAMB

message 2: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie Glee Wonderful inspiration for gitty-up-and-get-going.5:00 a.m. here I come! Thanks

message 3: by Alison (new)

Alison Giles Tip 9 & 10 are my faves. I always write for myself, no deadlines, no demands from publishers, no getting up at 5:00, no punishing or rewarding, just writing when and where I feel like's very freeing creatively. I also like to imagine I am reading a story to my readers (and I usually do have someone in mind) I find this really helps to get a story started.

message 4: by Karen (new)

Karen Chase I know it sounds cheesy, but I read inspiring tips from successful authors like Elizabeth Gilbert with the firm belief that something will sink in deeply. Permanently. Successfully.

message 5: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Barrett Great tips. Actually getting to the computer or notebook every day is essential. And routine helps, knowing that there is a time of every day dedicated to writing, even if it is only ten or fifteen minutes. All those minutes add up. And #9 is excellent. Don't worry if it's "good." Let others judge that. Just write.

message 6: by Christine (new)

Christine Lamb And then I come 'out the other end' and realise that nothing really matters that much because all creative thoughts are recorded somewhere and they are picked up by somebody who wil run with it - and hopefully write that best seller.

message 7: by Loyd (new)

Loyd Uglow Tips 1, 5, and 7 are, in my opinion, the most important ones for writers. In fact, they could be summed up simply as "Writers write." Many things are helpful for becoming a better writer, but I've found the greatest benefit comes simply from practice.
Loyd Uglow, Marksman's Trinity

message 9: by Justin (new)

Justin This is a good list. Don't forget to go out there and find a good old fashioned writing prompt. There are tons of sites that offer them (Pinterest, for example) and they can really get you unstuck.

message 10: by Leslie (new)

Leslie Lindsay Oooh, I LOVE all of these tips. Some are easier said than done, of course. I often 'dare' myself to keep my butt-in-chair for a designated period of time (say, 4 hours), even if I've had too much iced tea. It's motivating, I tell ya!

Author interviews/reviews here:

back to top