Think Outside the Books: Three Touchstones for Inspiration

Daily sources to kindle your creativity



Think outside the books

Every day on Medium there are hundreds of articles about books that you need to read to further your career, improve your writing, enhance your marketing skills, or enjoy life.

Not a day goes by that articles touting the power, persuasiveness, and proficiency of books to help you in your never-ending quest for self-improvement.


I get that. I LOVE books. I read them, notate them, study them, and shelve them with respect. I buy them, lend them, review them, and vow to love and cherish them ’til death do us part.


But all my ideas don’t come from books. My never-ending inundation of ideas comes from those daily sources that I can always count on and that come at a fraction of the cost of my precious library.


Three touchstones of daily inspiration

In addition to my weekly consumption of traditional books, and added to my daily dose of Medium, I’ve found three sources that provide fodder for future writing:


First and foremost, my digital subscription to the New York Times. Why?

  • It’s not just about politics. Every day I see articles about books, travel, music, fashion, and culture from around the nation and the world.

  • I’m exposed to excellent writing. I want to learn from the best, and I’m a firm believer that a direct correlation exists between the quality of what I read and the quality of what I write.

  • The NYT provides a jumping-off place for other ideas. Just today as I scrolled down my feed, I saw articles titled “Knitting for the Apocalypse,” “Escape With Me into the Delirious World of 1940’s Musicals,” and “Shopping for Desk Organizers.” (What writer wouldn’t want to read that?) Just reading those titles got me going: How have home crafts been affected by the quarantine? (I used to own a quilt shop, after all.) What’s the effect of using the word “Delirious” in a headline? How DO other writers organize their desks? Could that be a fun article on productivity? A possible question for an interview with a writer?

  • My New York Times comes every day, no matter the weather. I don’t have to shop for it or run to a newsstand. I can archive any article I want to read again and cultivate a reading list with topics I’m interested in. My subscription is the cheapest and most effective inspiration-finder I could ever want — all for just $15.00 per month.

Second, Smithsonian Magazine

Today in the “SmartNews” section, I found articles on ancient Egyptian funeral directors, “murder hornets,” and what sex is like for someone with synesthesia. (Strange how the wonky world of writing sometimes connects the dots for you…I was just researching “synesthesia” yesterday.)


Talk about a diversity of news — not to mention an ongoing catalog of factoids that can spur me on to writing a unique and interesting piece.

  • For the back-stories of historical events

  • For cultural perspectives I might not have considered

  • For insight about biology, literature, and scientific finds

Third, National Geographic

Did you know about the link between creativity and visual art? Did you ever wonder why after going to an art show or being surrounded by color makes you feel creative? Research proves that there’s a connection between exposure to visual art and the creative process.


What could be a better form of visual art than photography? Just looking at the intensity of National Geographic’s photography inspires me. Of course, there are lots of other ways to be inspired.


Today, I got to dive deep under Antarctica, contemplate the act of Motherhood through the eyes of photojournalists around the world quarantined with their kids, and travel to a remote clifftop monastery. I can explore the world every day of the year for under twenty bucks.





Books are a fantastic source of inspiration. They’re like old friends who provide frequent, pleasurable support for whatever you decide to do. You refer to them over and over. They are valuable vaults of knowledge.


But don’t overlook the quick-to-digest sources that pump you full-to-overflowing with fresh ideas every day.


Think outside the books. Find inspiration in daily digital sources that never fail to inundate you with ideas.


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