Inspiration for Non-Fiction

This month, I’ve been working on a nonfiction book that’s been in my mind for many years. I have a (self-imposed) word count deadline that is pushing me to get back to it (click here to read post about this), but I wanted to pause that project to write a little bit here about my inspirations.

With fiction, it seems like inspiration can come from anywhere. Many authors have written about where they get their inspiration, including my colleagues here at Write to Live—Live to Write.

But with nonfiction, where do you start? I’ve been thinking about this book for many years, and have notes scattered in many places. How do I begin to put it together?

I started with all the reasons I feel inspired to write on this topic:

  • I wrote about who I think will benefit from this book (that’s still in my head.)
  • I wrote about how I hope the reader will be different after they read my book.
  • I wrote about why I want to write this book.
  • I wrote down my highest intention for writing this book.
  • I wrote down some of the memories of times when I could have used a book like the one I’m planning to write.
  • I wrote down some of the coping mechanisms, tools, skills, and resources I’ve used that might help my reader.

After that, I looked for inspiration in more concrete ways:

  • I went back to my old journals and used what I wrote in the past to springboard new thoughts for the book.
  • I reread articles I’d saved that inspired passion, disgust, or wonder in me and resurrected those emotions as I reread them. I wrote (fast and furiously) as I experienced those emotions again.

Lastly, I just turned off the internal editor and let it all flow.

Back in June, before I started Camp NaNo, I made the decision to let go of needing to know how the book will look in its final form. I don’t know if it’ll be a memoir, a self-help book, a combination of the two, or something completely different than either. For the moment, I don’t need to know.

All is need is a little inspiration.

Where do you get your inspiration for your nonfiction project?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: writer, blogger, life coach, family physician. You can read my life coaching blog here. 



17 thoughts on “Inspiration for Non-Fiction

  1. I live with what are called “comorbid” disorders. Migraine, fibro, interstitial cystitis, etc. It’s quite a list. I’ve been told I am handling my physical problems well. Most have no cure and also no real honest-to-goodness treatment plans. I have seen multiple physicians and specialist. I feel like a veteran advocate for my care, even as I find there’s not that much medicine is able to help with except manage symptoms. About the only thing in my control is my response to the problems. I too want to write a nonfiction book that would help people like me navigate doctor appointments, the trials and errors of treatments, and the “how-to-cope” strategies I use to help me rise about pain and illness. I am a part of multiple support groups and I first was inspired I think when I felt invested in lifting up a fellow sufferer. I’ve been doing research so far. I don’t have any journals, so this come from scratch. Best wishes on your writing journey!

  2. Thank you, Diane! As I sit dumbfounded about my next post, this helps a lot! I experience inspiration often, and usually in bursts. Most of the time it’s after talking with a friend–finding a shared passion and vision for a better world, or bonding over a common experience that evokes gratitude and peace. Hmmmm… I think I know what I will write about now! And I will keep your list to help me distill next time, too. Best wishes to you!

  3. I love to think that real life events and occurrences give me the urge to write.Another great source of inspiration turns out to be your mind,in a day the thoughts that appear in your brain are uncountable.The best way to connect to them and even get to extort the full purpose of them appearing is through pouring them out.

  4. Dianne, I like your approach especially when writing formula is amorphous. Each person tries to get a way out that works for one; however, you can check out my blog on how to write. You may get one or two things from there to help you. Go to

  5. I have not started my non fiction project. It was born out of a debate I had with other students in my major back when I was in college. I had plans to write it as my phd dissertation but life derailed my phd. I plan to write it anyway when A) I complete all the research and B) I feel ready to juggle the five chainsaws of writing it. LOL

  6. I’m currently going through the process of writing a none fiction book myself but I’ve hit a complete wall this week.

    Reading about somebody else’s writing journey really helped me to take my mind off the writers block I’m currently experiencing! Thank you! 🙂

  7. The only direct non-fiction writing experience I have was with research papers for school. Inspiration was getting an A.

    However, in my fictional writing, I do a lot of research on real world events in international law, biology, physics, wars etc. which is the non-fictional background that I need before I can start twisting facts around my fingers. Inspiration for that comes from topics that interest me – maybe conspiracy theories, or at one point, something as seemingly unimportant as diplomatic immunity. I found inspiration in the news, in online articles that gave their opinions on the facts, rather than just the facts themselves. Inspiration is as endless as it is with fiction.

    Just keep looking!

  8. Thank you. This is really helpful. I’m right at the beginning stage of my next long project – a parenting book that’s been floating round in my head for a while now. I haven’t put pen to paper at all yet, except for ramblings in my journal. The ideas in this blog will help me to get my ideas clear…and more than anything else, just sit down and start writing! Have a good weekend.

  9. Thanks for sharing–I’m doing non-fiction for camp too! I’ve had so many things mulling in my head for years, and finally I decided that’s what I’ll write about. One of my shortcomings is writing actual stories, especially from my childhood, to make a point. This time I’m working on incorporating stories in my work as a result.

  10. Sometimes I think it’s a matter of finding something that resonates with you, and a story begins to reveal itself that needs telling. I really enjoy your blog and began following it! ❤ Peace!

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