4 Everyday Events That Inspired Famous Authors

4 Everyday Events That Inspired Famous Authors

If you’re struggling with writer’s block, you’re not alone.

We all experience writer’s block from time to time, but one major cause is failing to see the rich possibilities for material in your own backyard. Some writers fear their lives are too boring, giving them little fodder for stories.

In truth, most people (and writers in particular) lead rather simple, boring lives, but the small details of our lives can lead to great inspiration.

Fortunately, you don’t have to backpack across Spain or attend a pricey workshop to be inspired to write.

Read these stories of famous authors who found inspiration in small aspects of their everyday lives.

1. Watching a baseball game

Haruki Murakami, author of best-selling books like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and 1Q84, writes about men obsessed with boring stuff like cats, making spaghetti and listening to jazz, who suddenly get thrown into surreal situations. For example, they discover a well or a closet or a flash of light that causes them to fall into a crazy dream world.

This juxtaposition of realistic and zany makes Murakami as relatable as he is fun.

Unlike some novelists who began writing as preteens, Murakami opened a jazz bar after school. It wasn’t until he was indulging in one of his favorite pastimes (a game by a local baseball team) that he saw a player hit a double. Not even a home run – just a double. The baseball player’s achievement suddenly inspired him.

For the first time in his life, he decided he could write a novel. Murakami says the idea never occurred to him before.

writing inspiration2. Making a bet with J.R.R. Tolkien…and winning

Aside from his nonfiction, C.S. Lewis is probably most famous for his Narnia books, which are full of curious kids, cute talking animals and serious villains. He wrote another series of books, this time for adults, called The Space Trilogy, and it was inspired by a bet with a friend.

Lewis and his friend J.R.R. Tolkien (of Lord of the Rings fame) were having a discussion about writing when they decided to make a bet where one of them (Lewis) had to write a space travel story, and the other (Tolkien) had to write a time-travel story.

Lewis finished his story, though Tolkien (who took 12 years to write Lord of the Rings) did not.

3. A first date

One of the most praised, and perhaps least read, famous novels of the 20th century Is James Joyce’s Ulysses, a story of one day in the life of a couple of guys named Stephen Daedalus and Leopold Bloom — and that day was, specifically, June 10, 1904.

The anniversary is celebrated every year in Dublin (and elsewhere) as Bloomsday — which is a good excuse to have a beer even if you’ve never read the book.

Rumor has it that this was the night of June 10, 1904 that he met his future wife, Nora Barnacle.

In the novel, Leopold Bloom’s wife is also supposedly based on Nora.

First dates, whether sublime or terrible, have the potential redeeming quality of being writing inspiration.

4. Watching a rotor-cutting machine at GE

According to an interview with the great Kurt Vonnegut, his tech-oriented writing job helped increase his desire to write about science fiction.

Vonnegut worked in public relations for GE before he began writing novels, but instead of disregarding his surroundings as a bunch of boring machines, he listened to the scientists he worked with. Out of the minor details, he developed a strong interest in the fact that tiny boxes were going to take over the world by doing everything for us.

Cutting rotors was only the beginning!

Vonnegut said that this realization led to his first novel, Player Piano, which was in part about the dangers of machines. Vonnegut stuck with sci-fi, twisting and playing with the genre as he wrote his many other novels.

If these writers could find inspiration in a sports game, a friend, date and a boring day job, then so can you.

Be more mindful as you go about your day, and listen to the people around you. Inspiration could be lurking anywhere, from the dog park to a Facebook post to the evening news to a trip to the store.

So go out (or stay in!), notice how fascinating your life really is, and keep writing.

Has a mundane event ever inspired your writing? Share in the comments below.

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11 comments

  • Jarvee says:

    Thank you for sharing these interesting motivational stories Ivy! We can be inspired by least expected situations in our lives. But in order to be ready for that inspiration to come, you have to be free from fear of failure. This and fear of not being good enough are fears that block us. Everything will come when it supposed to come, relax and enjoy in what you do!

    • Ivy Grimes says:

      That’s a great point! Everyone has a different idea of what success means, so it’s best to pursue writing for our own joy. Then there is no failure. After all, we can never do enough to please the critics in our lives or our own critical voices. It’s better to ignore them and have fun.

  • Meredith says:

    I’ve had inspiration come to me several times in a dream. I’ll remember it so vividly the next morning that I begin to write it down and turn it into a story. In fact, the fantasy novel I’m working on now came from a dream I had a couple years ago. You never know when inspiration will hit you!

  • Fascinating. It’s always interesting to hear how others work, and their inspiration.

  • Neil Larkins says:

    Thanks for this. It was in fact a date (a first meeting, actually) that changed my life, which led to a memoir over forty years later.

  • Ohita Afeisume says:

    Singing songs and generally enjoying myself often inspires me to write stories.

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