Do you like Old stuff? #Inspiration

Inspirring photographs for fiction
Pictures for Fiction Inspiration

One of the most fascinating pieces of news for me last week was the New York Public Library releasing 180,000 copyright-free material. I’ve been looking at some of it when I’ve had time, and have had the most bizarre dreams!

I have often written stories based on visual writing prompts and phrases, but this is an incredible treasure. I lost a good hour yesterday to this Egyptian collection.

Lately, I find that the visual inspires the literal in me like nothing else.  I’ve become a fan of Pinterest and Instagram, because sometimes pieces of flash fiction come to me in a flash. Nostalgia can be a big source of inspiration.

What inspires you? Do you ever get lost in old pictures, albums, books?

Do you look at pictures and wonder at the stories behind them? Can you link me to interesting pictures that I could use as writing prompts?

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Add Yours
  1. Rob40

    Inspiration comes from single pictures or mental images yes, but when you put two random ones together, then you can have some bizarre and amazing ideas. Try picking out two random images from that big pile and see what you can work with putting those together. Could be impossible or the greatest idea in history. Like discovering plutonium at home.

  2. ruchirabiswas97

    I know it pretty much doesn’t matter that way when one follower gets added to the huge pile you possess…Yet as a token this goes out for you..I nominate you for the blogging award…

  3. everyonemustspeak

    I love old stuff, because whenever I saw them there’s always a memory which is hidden there, a good or bad memory. By seeing old stuff, I can remember who I really am

  4. sonorasam

    I find my inspiration comes in flashes. Those flashes are based on what I’m reading as well as situations I find myself in.

  5. cindamackinnon

    Going backwards here: I found an old painting that was the perfect cover for my novel A Place in the World. I feel it tells the reader what the story is about before you even open the book. (I use it as my logo at left). If I had found it first it WOULD have inspired me to write!

  6. dgkaye

    Ooh, I love nostalgia, old photos, historical landmarks, and more! Yes, they are like blatant word prompts in our faces, begging for a new story to be told. 🙂

  7. Jacqui Murray

    I love digging through my family’s old pictures. They are from as far back as the turn of the century.

    If you haven’t seen the virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel, it’s gorgeous–

  8. Trinity

    Good article! What inspires me? It might be easier to answer if you were to ask, “What doesn’t inspire me”! Inspiration can be found literally everywhere, from the colour or shape of a flower, a building, a news article, history, a piece of clothing caught in the breeze, a mood, a song, to a dozen other minute details seen all around us… all we need do is stop and look! 🙂

  9. John

    Music fuels my writing, but I have on occasion looked at a photo and went, “Well, now I have an idea for a story.”

  10. hilarycustancegreen

    How strange, I was with my family at the weekend and we were looking through old family items. We found a bowl given to my grandmother in Kota Bharu when my grandfather retired from the civil service there. The date is in arabic, but the writing is Malayan (I have a dish with the same inscription) – it may only be a written form of the date, but we would love to read it. I wondered if maybe you could help. I don’t know how to upload a picture here… I will email to your stories email address.

  11. Li @ Flash Fiction

    LOL I spent several hours this past weekend on that site. I also like looking at old film on the British Pathe site. I set out to write something, do a little research, and end up spending hours poring over archives.

  12. Harry...the Man!

    I find a good blog post or article to be inspiring. Somehow, Pinterest and Instagram fail to do it for me.

    Who was it who said that males are motivated more by the visual LOL.

  13. Crystal Collier

    I’m right there with you. The right visual prompt works wonders. I have a dual screen monitor system–one for visual prompts and research notes, and the other for the story I’m writing. It’s an especially effective system to keep me working and attentive to my inspiration.

  14. marypamela

    I am also inspired by pictures or newspaper articles. An overheard phrase will also get me going and wondering how I can use that character in a story. 🙂

  15. Maliny Mohan

    I am also inspired by visuals. A particular news on T.V or something I read on newspaper. Images too ignite the itch in me to write. Good post as always:)

  16. Elusive Trope

    […] big thank you to Damyanti Biswas and her blog Daily (W)RITE that provided in the post “Do You Like Older Stuff? #Inspiration” provided the heads up about New York Public Library releasing 180,000 copyright-free material. A […]

  17. Together Academics - "mytutoringspace"

    hi Damyanti,
    Yes Pinterest has become a favorite spot to not only stimulate my imagination but to also find images to share with students 🙂
    Plus it is fun to rummage around a library’s worth of material without having to journey there directly.
    See you on twitter too!

  18. lgwhite67

    I hate to admit that bleak urban landscapes seem to push me to write more. I just returned from Cleveland yesterday, and I have been looking over photos I took and the words are just coming and coming.

  19. ccyager

    I’ve used old postcards for inspiration. Photographs of people move me more than of places or things. Another source of inspiration is simply watching people on a daily basis. The NYPL treasure trove will keep lots of writers busy for a while, I imagine! Cinda

  20. Marieke Mills

    That’s a wonderful way to get inspired. I do not necessarily get inspired by seeing things online, unfortunately. Rather when I sit at a cafe, look at the interior, something may catch my eye. That’s why I like to go to different places.

  21. ianscyberspace

    No I find visuals to fit the story I’ve already written not the other way around. 🙂 I may go for a week focused on things other than writing but one day there’ll be a sudden influx of memory events I’ve experienced in the past which have to come out, or I may suddenly have the outline of a fictional story in my mind which is not based on past experience. When that happens I have no interest in anything but writing no matter how long it takes to get it all out of my head.

  22. Birgit

    Oh I love looking at old pictures and albums. I love looking at old pictures that end up at flea markets and wonder who these people were. I love old postcards too. Of course, I love old movies especially the Silents. Actually, when I visit my mom at the long term care home, there are many old people who just lie there and can no longer speak. They are in between worlds and I wonder who these people were when they were young. My mom’s roommate is 103 but she is lying in bed probably wishing she could be free…who was she? I know she was born in 1912, the year the Titanic sunk and 2 years before the First World war began. She was 20 in 1932…Makes me think

  23. chunyue

    The Old is definitely a huge source of inspiration for me, though I love the shock of energy from the New 🙂 As for images, I agree with that too – will never forget the effect Steve McCurry’s portrait book had on me. I also find that scents can be extremely evocative, although much less often.

  24. rxena77

    Music inspires me which makes helpful to me. I was writing a scene in my new Opus about a man experiencing being in the first dirigible airship as it rises to the skies — when Bach’s Cello Suite No.1-The Prelude (made popular by One Republic’s SECRETS) played — and the scene unfolded in my mind.. Here is Jennifer Thomas playing it (2:06) — As always an intriguing post. 🙂

  25. Stephanie Austin

    Nostalgia is a WONDERFUL tool for creative inspiration. Being in that transition between childhood and adulthood, I’ve found most of my thoughts stem from a sentimental, wistful place–a place that longs for the past. I find it interesting to explore those feelings, because they say a lot about me as a human being. I often wonder if I’m not as alone as I think in that regard…

  26. TanGental

    I just posted about visual inspiration. I wrote 30 stories in November and about 25 were visually inspired. So yep I’m like you Damyanti

  27. kbeezyisviral

    Some of the greatest writers inspire me: Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Langston Hughes, William Shakespeare, John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Virginia Woolf, and Maya Angelou–just to name a few. The instances and scenarios in my life spark my brain as well. I inspire myself a lot with various activities that I participate in on a daily basis as well.

  28. paulabroome427

    While I love to pore over old photos, I can’t say that I’ve ever been inspired by a picture. I think the closest I’ve come was via the muse of photography. It was a photo of a black family in a farm wagon pulled by a mule. It was in a pre-1950 National Geographic Magazine. The woman in the wagon is looking directly at the photographer, and if looks could kill, that picture would never have been taken.

  29. hilarymb

    Hi Damyanti – I love looking at old pictures etc … but my inspiration seems to come from something that interests me and I want to find out more – then that leads me to something else .. or I tie similar ‘stories’/ articles together and post – then I search for photos to match my post subjects …

    But I can easily lose myself in Museums, at talks etc .. inspiration I can glean all the time – guess I’m lucky that way .. cheers Hilary

  30. Shailaja V

    One of the best weekly photo prompt sites i Friday Fictioneers. Another is Sunday Photo Blog, I think. Visuals are my best triggers for flash fiction. Absolutely love them!

  31. Elusive Trope

    This is like totally awesome. I definitely could lose myself in these images. Just quickly checking it out, I just randomly pulled up a letter — Letter to Dr. [William] Gordon [Roxbury, Mass.]. Have no idea who this is, what the letter about (have to download it in order to read the handwriting), but just seeing this communication from another time gets the gears in the mind going.

    I can understand why your dreams have gotten bizarre. 🙂

    I used to have a Tumblr site that I collected images from other Tumblr accounts (some original works sits, some reblogs sites) for enjoyment and inspiration. Yet in order to keep me focused on my blog and the WP community I’ve made a sort of vow to avoid Tumblr (inc. deleting my site) because I could just spend hours checking out the images and reblogging them.

    I’d have to say right now that the key place I go to find inspiration for writing is WP, from the blogs I follow and who follow me. Sometimes commenting on someone’s post or reading a comment on a post of mine can provide an inspirational spark.

    I also have my own photographs to provide inspiration. Regardless of how “good” of a photographer one believes one’s self to be, not only can the images be inspirational, but the (aimless) wandering looking for something to photograph, the way it makes one see the landscape differently (even one’s own neighborhood block), the way it lets the mind wander and giving the subconscious a chance to bubble up to the surface.

  32. shoreacres

    I just received my copy of “The Devil’s In The Cows,” written by one of my longtime blog friends in 2011. He picked random photos from the Library of Congress, and then wrote flash fiction pieces about them. You can see more about it here. It really is a fine book, and he’d be a fine blog for you to follow. You’ll not find an ounce of received wisdom about writing there, which I find quite refreshing.

  33. Arlee Bird

    I love looking at old stuff. I can spend hours in museums. I’m fascinated by old houses and buildings and abandoned pieces of the past. Since my mother’s death I’ve found myself engrossed by the boxes of memorabilia that I’ve sifted through. About 60% of the movies I watch these days are older black and white films pre-1960.

    Arlee Bird