PRO TIP | Inspired Writing Doesn’t Just Happen

publication date: Feb 21, 2024
author/source: Lisa MacDonald

When it comes to creative pursuits, you never know when inspiration is going to hit. But in the context of work deadlines and deliverables, you may not have the luxury of time. Here are a few tips on kickstarting the process and finding ways to inspire yourself, when your job is to write in a way that will inspire others.

Write what you know

Writing what you “know” may literally require you to give yourself a crash course in an assigned topic. Think about the challenge of writing copy to promote a 5K fundraising event, when you stopped running after nearly failing Grade 9 gym class. Taking the time to scroll google content on “running for beginners” may give you the language and angle to create an inspirational invite to all those supporters of your charity who would never consider themselves a “runner.”

Sometimes, “writing what you know” requires extra focus. When it comes time to hand-write a stack of thank you cards to the sponsors of a recent event, start by finding a quiet place to work. Take yourself back through memory recall or re-visiting pictures from the event. Get in touch with the emotions they invoke. Think about how you can share those feelings—through words—with sponsors who may, or may not, have attended. What is the soundtrack playing in your head? Put it on a speaker and immerse yourself in the feelings that the music inspires within you.

Be honest about what you know, and what you don’t. Authentic writing happens when you acknowledge gaps in experience that may limit your ability to connect to the intended audience of your writing, for example:

  • Are you of the same generation?
  • Are you up-to-date on the various social media platforms?
  • Have you written a Will?
  • Do you give to charity?

Then, consider the unique space that you occupy in relation to the topic you want to write about. What has brought you to this time and this place? What experience have you had that can allow you to build connection? Who do you know that could help to fill in the gaps?

Show don’t tell

You likely learned about exposition in Grade 11 creative writing. It’s a way for a writer to give background information about character and setting. "Show don’t tell” refers to using sensory details and action, rather than exposition, as a device to draw your reader into the narrative. In the context of this discussion, effectively using “show don’t tell” is the short cut to writing in a way that will inspire others. Consider the difference of—

“She was determined to walk again.”


“For the first month Annabeth focused only on the transition from sitting to standing. Using two canes and sometimes the supportive arms of her physiotherapist, she would push herself up onto her artificial legs trying to learn the feeling of balance that she had prior to the accident.”

In only a few short lines, the reader has formed a mental picture of Annabeth’s determination. Effort, in the form of canes and a trainer, becomes tangible. The reader also innately understands that moving from sitting to standing is not always painless. Adding artificial limbs to the equation evokes empathy and admiration.

Technology makes it easier to send messages. Truly making a connection—one that will inspire feelings and action—happens when we write from the heart, and that takes practice, time and effort.


Lisa MacDonald is the Editor of Hilborn Charity eNews. She can't remember a time that she didn't love reading books and writing stories.

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