Saif Uddin


Everyday interactions: Often ideas will spring to mind from the most extraordinary places like an annoying train delay in 1990 from Manchester to London, for example. How many of us experience delays on our journeys? Yet, one woman by the name of JK Rowling turned that grim uninspiring situation into what is now known as arguably one of the world’s most popular stories.

Listening to other people: In a world where everyone wants to talk and share, we as writers, need to simply do the opposite. We need to listen. Listen to the unnoticed creativity, the spark from a past story that could be developed and written with an amazing narrative. The most important thing to note is, you cannot be listening to the same people talk all the time; meet new people, form new ideas.

Notice the world: It is imperative as writers that we stay alert to the world we are living in, to the current trends and issues. A lot of inspiration can be found by taking an ordinary topic of today, like Brexit, global warming or the rise of global nationalism. Find a topic to brainstorm from and let your creativity flow around that idea.

Travelling: What better way to notice the world with all its awe-inspiring beauty and desolation, than by travelling? You get to see, feel, hear, taste and experience the good and the bad. Inspiration can be found in the darkest and most dreadful places, as much as it can be found on a beach watching the sunset. We read books of amazing societies and cultures, so why not go experience some more? Learn from others. Travel.

History: This is where I draw most of my inspirations from, naturally. Studying and teaching history has helped me find inspiring ways to create plotlines. My debut novel, The Pacifist’s Sword, has layers of history integrated into the plot. Whether it’s reviving a feudal or tribal social structure or referencing the wars of the 20th century, I can find inspiration in both the ancient and the modern. A plethora of stories to draw inspiration from.

Pain: Arguably one of the best places to find inspiration is from within your own experiences, a dark moment especially. There are dark times in our lives, a passing of a loved one, a mistake made, childhood traumas and victimisation in any shape or form. You can channel your pain through writing, making it your inspiration. You will realise that by writing about your pain it will help with uncluttering your mind, an exercise I would highly advise everyone to do.

Mindset: Most of your current ideas will come from whatever your own life, culture and society have fed you. When you’re able to play devil’s advocate, or think so far out of the box it sounds ‘not normal’ that’s when some of the most entertaining and memorable work can be written. A ‘woke’ writer is a very dangerously entertaining writer. Take The Matrix, Inception or In Time – some amazingly unique ideas that were written and then transformed into memorable movies.

Movies: Great movies are born from great writers, whether they’re novelists or scriptwriters. A lot of inspiration can be found from amazing movie plots, dialogues and aesthetics. Some of my most inspirational movies are ones that portray a deep and controversial meaning, take Enders’ Game, V for Vendetta or Ready Player One, for example. Today we live in an age where the movie industry is massive, so use them.

Reading: There are many times when I am reading something that triggers an inspirational thought I need to quickly jot down. For aspiring authors, reading around the topic or genre you want to write about is crucial. Aim to read a novel a month. Trying to write without wanting to read is like trying to win medals for swimming without wanting to touch the water. Don’t make excuses.

Amazing writers: Inspiration can be found from reading the work of amazing writers. Learn the craft from those who are hugely successful, read how they create memorable scenes, dissect how they create engaging dialogue and learn how they develop emotional attachments to their work. Follow them on social media and watch their journey; even better, follow the journey of upcoming writers, engage with them to help you find your own path.

Saif Uddin is a British-born Bangladeshi novelist. His debut novel The Pacifist’s Sword was released in October 2018. He hopes to inspire and empower a new generation of BAME writers. Instagram & Twitter: @SaifTheWriter