Need Writing Inspiration? Try an Out of Body Experience



Wait. Hear me out. I’m not advocating some ancient form of writing meditation. I’m not advising a trip to the Far East, nor Middle Earth. In my quest to keep my imagination well-oiled, I’ve discovered an additional method for getting started when my grey matter is stalled.

Writing-Computers and Coffee 2

Sometimes the rythm of typing can get you from page one to page two.

In the movie “Finding Forrester”, Jamal (Rob Brown) is encouraged to begin by typing a piece written by William Forrester (Sean Connery) and to start writing when his own words come to him. Forrester asserted that sometimes the rhythm of typing can get you from page one to page two. I’ve begun typing from a magazine and found that this can work.

15 Minutes to 1500 Words

What I’ve done recently is a bit different. I flip to a random page in a book and find an interesting sentence and type it into a new document. Separating a sentence “out of the body” of text that it came from breathes new life into it. In context, the sentence has a specific meaning that the writer hopes is communicated. Taking it out of its context gives it unlimited possibilities.

Allow me to demonstrate. Here are five sentences from works on my own bookshelves. Set your timer for fifteen minutes. Try starting with one of these sentences. See what you come up with. Don’t peek below where I let you know the work each one was extracted from.

Eggtimer picture

If you don’t have a timer, you might want to try a web-based timer like

5 Sentences

1) Finally, I came to realize that I had myself – and only myself – to blame. 

2) I stood among the rocks watching them, very much puzzled as to what to do next.

3) I woke up in the emergency room. A glance at the clock told me it was a few minutes past midnight.

4) “Seems small.” The reverend had to bend his neck to enter, lest he hit his head. The entire cottage consisted of one room.

5)  “If you are a successful writer, why haven’t I heard of you?” insisted the loan officer.

“I don’t know,” I said growing irritated. “Can you read?”

I couldn’t resist including that last one. The sources and the context for the five sentences are listed below. I’ll bet that your words are not like the context they came from. Even if you didn’t do the exercise, it is likely that the ideas that first came to mind as you read each sentence are quite different.

1) “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story” Ben Carson with Cecil Murphey, Zondervan 1990 Page 61

2) “The Complete Sherlock Holmes Volume 1” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Barnes and Noble Classics, 2003, (The Hound of the Baskervilles), Page 636

3) Hazardous Duty, Christy Barritt, 2006 edition, Kregel Publishers, Page 130 (New Edition available at

4) “The Max Lucado Christmas Collection” by Max Lucado, 2003, 2004, 2006, Thomas Nelson, (The Christmas Candle), page 131

5) “Moneywise” by Dennis Hensley, 1991, Harvest House publishers, Page 36

Mechanical-Pencil pic

If you tried this technique, I’d love to hear about it. If you think it was helpful, please pass the post on. Don’t forget to sign-up in the top right corner for future posts.

Consider how many books you already have. How many sentences do they contain? How many ideas could be initiated by borrowing a few as prompts to get you started? If you’ve seen the movie “Finding Forrester”, you probably already know that if that springboard sentence helps you produce a usable work, you should probably go back and rewrite the sentence to make it your own.

**Author Note: Although I love the above mentioned movie, I should warn those that would like to know, there a few points of strong language in the movie. It’s not throughout. And I think the themes of friendship, loyalty, and families, as well as its ideas on creativity definitely make it worthwhile.

Keep writing and keep improving.

Related: See the Story Sparklers tab at the top of the page.

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12 comments on “Need Writing Inspiration? Try an Out of Body Experience
  1. Lynne says:

    Interesting idea, will try it out as I write my next piece. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thx for the like on the Once Upon a Ballroom poem, Peter. I agree this exercise is neat — and I also love the 5th one.

  3. Erica says:

    What a great idea! Am definitely going to do this and like Julie, will add it to my regular writing toolbox for getting unstuck. 🙂

  4. mcwoman says:

    What a great exercise for a writing class! Thanks for the idea.

  5. Julie Luek says:

    I like this idea and will add it to my bank of writing prompt ideas. I also just like to take Natalie Goldberg’s idea and take a totally random topic and write ten minutes, without stopping about it. “What don’t I remember?” “What do mashed potatoes mean to you?” It’s actually amazing what bubbles to the surface when you just free write.

    • Julie, thanks for your comment. I hadn’t heard of Natalie Goldberg. I looked up her site and the books look good. I also have, “Take Ten For Writers, which has 1000 writing prompt combinations. I love seeing what bubbles to the surface when we let our brains do their thing.

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"A writer looks at a screen or piece of paper like a canvas. They see a country unexplored, a picture unpainted, a tale not told. They dare to venture into the barren land, explore its dark corners, and paint its pictures. Then they unveil the epic with the goal of compelling people to visit their newly discovered territory.”
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