Lazette Gifford
Publisher & Editor


Idea Jars for Writers

By Jamieson Wolf
© 2007, Jamieson Wolf

Sometimes the muse just isn't listening….

Quite often, when I'm trying to write, nothing will come. I despise sitting in front of the computer, or at my journal, staring at a blank page.  I find that when I have no idea what to write, or the Muse just isn't there to give me guidance, it's hard to force out words with nothing to inspire them.

There are many ways to kick start your imagination, but I find that nothing works better than an Idea Jar. A piece of writing created with the help of an Idea Jar may not be something that will fit a novel or a short story, but the plan is to clear your head so that the writer's block goes away. And sometimes, let's face it: the Muses need a little help.

What the heck are Idea Jars?

Idea Jars are great things for writers to create. They're jars (or bowls, or whatever you'd like to use) filled with pieces of paper with ideas on them. At times when you want to write and the Muse isn't there to help you, you can pull a piece of paper from the Idea Jar and have a starting point.

Some believe that the format for Idea Jars started as a party game, kind of like an 18th century version of Telephone or Telegram. Someone would pull a piece of paper out of a jar or bowl and start a conversation. The next person would pull out another piece of paper and use what was written there as their response, and so on.

The Idea Jar works in very much the same way, except we're really opening a door for our imagination and giving our writing a spark to light that fire.

What you'll need

  • A jar or bowl. You can even decorate your jar so that you feel it's a good place to store ideas.
  • A pen.
  • Some paper.
  • A pair of scissors.

What to do

  • Take your pen and paper and start writing little snippets or words, whatever comes to mind. Don't even think of what you're writing; just get them down on paper. Leave a bit of space between each word or phrase.

When you're done, your page should look something like this:


I went sailing today with John

There are monsters under my bed


Wheat crackers

Coffee keeps me awake

The stars are bright tonight

A statue comes to life


We are the brain behind computers


Blue stones on my tongue

Stars are wishes held in place 


Do you hear the music?


Once you have your sheet filled (or several sheets -- You can have as many ideas as you want), cut the paper so each phrase, snippet, or word is on a separate piece of paper. Then put them in your Idea Jar and mix them up.

You can even print out this page and cut up the ideas I've written above, just to get you started.

Next time you're sitting at the computer or with a blank page in front of you and nothing to write, dip your hand into the Idea Jar, pull out a piece of paper, and use what's there to get your started. It works, try it!

Whatever you write, it can be the starting point for a short story, a novel, a poem, or just a refresher for your Muse and imagination. Either way, that spark will be lit and the possibilities are endless.

Now that you have your very own idea jar, ideas will always be at your fingertips!

Jamieson is the author of the books Electric Pink, Electric Blue, Garden City: Collected Fiction, and Finding the Muse: Finding the Inspiration to Write.

His work has been published in Mytholog, Slow Trains Literary Journal, Twilight Times, Clean Sheets, The Dark Krypt, Rain Tiger, SunPiper Press, The House of Pain, and Long Story Short. His poetry has been published in The Everyman Journal, Shoestrings Poetry, and The Poetry Corner, among others.

He is also a Senior Reviewer at Linear Reflections: The Review Site, where he has written over a hundred book and movie reviews.  One of his reviews, for The Witches of Eastwick, was published in the book Susan Sarandon: A True Maverick. He is teaching an online course for A Long Story Short School of Writing entitled The Muse, which will focus on writing from inspiration.

Jamieson currently lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada with his partner and his cat (and sometimes Muse) Mave.  More information about Jamieson and his work can be found at his site: