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This article was published on August 31, 2011

A Guide to Online Inspiration for Writers, Photographers and Designers

A Guide to Online Inspiration for Writers, Photographers and Designers
Nancy Messieh
Story by

Nancy Messieh

Lesotho-born and raised, Nancy Messieh, The Next Web's Middle East Editor, is an Egyptian writer and photographer based in Cairo, Egypt. Fol Lesotho-born and raised, Nancy Messieh, The Next Web's Middle East Editor, is an Egyptian writer and photographer based in Cairo, Egypt. Follow her on Twitter, her site or Google+ or get in touch at [email protected]

Inspiration is just a website away, sometimes you need to know where to look. Whether it’s communities, tutorials, or other forms of inspiration, there’s no end to the ways you can motivate and inspire yourself, and possibly even come up with a masterpiece in the process.

While there are links and concepts that are specific to each creative skill, there are a few places just about anyone can go for creative inspiration regardless of what the final product is going to be. By perusing movie posters and album art, photographers can mimic, or build on the concept, while writers can create a story that goes with the image.

Another key place to look is in the professional world. Keeping up with what is happening in the professional sphere is essential not only for finding inspiration, but is also necessary to keep up with the industry, particularly in your own genre. Stephen King, whether you like his writing or not, is a best-selling novelist, and his advice to writers is “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”  The very same advice can be given to a photographer or designer, in relation to their own profession.

Designers, writers and photographers shouldn’t limit themselves to just one era. Going back in time is a great way to find inspiration – take a well known concept from the past and try to bring it into the 21st century with your own twist.

While Project 365 is a concept specific to photographers, committing to putting pen to paper on a daily basis, or attempting to design something no matter how small, every day, can also be a good way to get your creative juices flowing.

Sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery. Get yourself out to the mall, go for a walk in a park, or wander the streets of your town or city. Inspiration is literally everywhere, waiting to be found.

Below is a list, in no particular order, of places for photographers, writers and designers to go for that extra bit of inspiration when the creative spark is being elusive.


Communities: Where better to exchange ideas, thoughts and look for new ideas than in a community of people who are passionate about the same thing as you? While one of the first places you can go for photography inspiration is Flickr, with the most interesting photos from the past 7 days, the Explore feature, as well as Flickr groups. Find a group on Flickr who are interested in the same style or technique as you, or if you don’t find what you’re looking for, create your own group. Popular groups include diptychsiPhoneography and Black and White photography.

While Flickr certainly has the numbers, there are several other communities where you can go for feedback, comments, and to see what your peers are up to. Deviant Art not only has an active photography community, they also have editors who single out the best of what’s being shared on the site, or Daily Deviations.

500px, a site we’ve reviewed in the past, is today’s rising star in the online photography world, and you can also see the best of what the site has to offer through the Editor’s picks as well as popular photos.

One of the most active communities among photographers at the moment is, unexpectedly, Google+. There are several lists worth checking out to plunge right into Google+’s photography community which can be found on Google Plus Counter.

There are also a ton of sites where you can find interesting images to inspire, like FFFFFound, PhotoJojo, Tissue Paper, and that’s just naming a few. In fact, Tumblr itself, along with sites like Pinterest and We Heart It, are brimming with gorgeous images.

Tutorials: If you’re stuck for inspiration, you can jump start your photography by learning a new technique, whether it’s getting the hang of night photography or as simple as taking interesting water drop shots, reading up on these methods is a good place to start. Digital Photography School and Photo Radar are great sources for tutorials. When it comes to tutorials, Google is your friend. If there’s a specific technique you want to get the hang of, the first place to turn is undoubtedly Google.

Get Published: There’s nothing like getting published to really motivate you to keep on working. Getting involved in the community at JPGMag and Fotoblur could actually contribute to a publishing credit. While photos shared on the site are ultimately chosen by editors, getting noticed by the community, and having them vote for you, could mean your photo will end up in a print magazine. Also look to your own local magazines and newspapers as a good place to get your work published.

Competitions: Just like getting published, entering competitions can do wonders for your motivation. Keep an eye out for annual competitions like the Sony World Photography Awards.


Communities: Dribbble and Forrst are great communities which incorporate just about every kind of design, where members share wireframes, final products, icons, buttons, and just about anything design-related you can imagine. If you’re working on something and are not sure if you’re going in the right direction, Dribbble and Forrst are good places to go for advice, as is How Design.

Wireframe showcases are another good place to see how other designers start off their concepts and may help find that spark you’re looking for.

There are other designers who are more than happy to share the inspirational images, designs and sites that they come across. Abduzeedo is the perfect example of how designers are more than willing to share their finds with others.

Keeping an eye on what other designers are doing is essential, and The Next Web’s own list 10 sites which incorporate both function and beauty might be a good place to start for some web design inspiration. Sites that every designer should have bookmarked include Swiss Miss and Behance. For more gorgeous sites filled with inspiring images, be sure to check out our handpicked list of 15 sites to visit for illustration design inspiration.

If it’s straight inspiration you’re looking for and less of the community, sites like DesignShack, CSS Remix, Best Web Gallery and SiteInspire are wonderful, and there’s plenty more great options here too.

Tutorials: Smashing Magazine and Smashing Apps are great places to go not only for in-depth tutorials, but you can also find all sorts of resources to give you that extra push to try something new.


Online communities: Like any other creative skill, taking part in a community is a good way to stay inspired. ABCTales is a vibrant writer community, with a wide variety of writing styles, and a great editorial team painstakingly reading all the posts and ‘cherrypicking‘ the best the site has to offer. In addition, ABCTales has its very own Inspiration Points updated on a weekly basis. Other sites that are worth of your time include A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, NaNoWriMo for the novelists out there and Authonomy, a great community for book lovers.

Idea Generators: Online idea generators are another interesting tool at the writer’s disposal for writing exercises. And who knows – that writing exercise could wind up being the basis for your next novel. Archetype Writing has every kind of generator you can imagine – character, plot and problem generators. The Big Huge Thesaurus also has a generator which gives you your settings, character and events. All you have to do is write the story.

The Dictionary: When you’re hit with writer’s block, actively looking for inspiration can be as simple as opening up a dictionary, or sign up for Merriam Webster’s Word of the Day to have a daily word sent to your inbox. Using that word as a point of inspiration or a jump board can make that white page seem less intimidating. Writers can also turn to images for inspiration, as mentioned before. You don’t have to limit yourself to album art, but rather just any image, photograph, or painting that sparks your interest.

Apps: Once you’ve got the inspiration you need, using an app like OmmWriter, IA Writer or any one of these minimalist apps will help you stay focused on the task at hand.

These links are just a guideline on where to look for inspiration. Needless to say, in the creative world there are no rules for how to do things. Do you have any tips or tricks for what to do when you’re lacking inspiration? Let us know in the comments.

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