This entry is part 15 of 15 in the series Creative Exercises

In honor of this week’s International Women’s Day (March 8th), I wanted to share with you a bit of inspiration we can take from women we know.

First, I’d like to introduce you to Shin Saimdang – a woman I never knew, but admire greatly. My hope is that knowing about her will inspire you as well – and that you’ll share with me some of the women who inspire you.

There are many women I admire and who inspire me as a writer and artist. Who inspires – or perhaps guides – you?

Women's Day Inspiration

Artwork by Heri West.

Shin Saimdang (1504-1551) is a highly respected Korean artist and poet who rose to a position of great historical significance and cultural honor. Her artwork is delicate and gorgeous, her reknowned poetry greatly celebrated, and as a mother she brought a great scholar and political reformer into the world, Yulgok.


Shin Saimdang’s controversial likeness – the only Korean female to appear on currency.

It is difficult to imagine what her life was really like. We know that Shin Saimdang was highly educated (especially for a woman of her time). She was raised by her grandparents and married at the age of 19.

She is the first woman whose likeness has been printed on South Korean currency, which has actually stirred-up some controversy as to whether it’s feminist or sexist – which means it’s both, really, which is pretty awesome.

A Woman of Many Names

Women's Day Inspiration

Artwork by Shin Saimdang.

What I find intriguing about her too is that she had many pseudonyms for her writing: Saimdang, Inimdang and Imsajae. She has since been nicknamed Eojin Eomeoni, which means Wise Mother.

Shin Saimdang’s story makes me think about the greater context of other womens’ lives because though she is famous, she’s still quite elusive. I wonder about the things that would never make it into history books, all the interesting things we don’t know.

What’s so great about women anyway?

This was the question posed to passersby here and presented on television. Do women deserve an International Women’s Day? While the typical gut response was, “yes,” most people had a difficult time explaining why.

So I think it important to give this a moment of thought. As a writer, I thought this would also be a perfect way to apply this thinking process to the writing process.

Try these steps as a creative writing exercise:

1. Think about the five most interesting women you have known personally. Write their names down.

The reason I suggest thinking about the women you know personally is because – I think it should be as personal as possible. But go ahead and include famous women if you want. (Just know that the rest of this will get increasingly difficult.)

2. What do these five women have in common? How are they different?

Storm-out the comparisons. Make it simple list-making.

3. Take a look at what you’ve written. Pull out ten different attributes.

You’re going to use these to create a new character profile.

What kind of character might you create from a mixture of the five most interesting women you’ve ever met? Let’s face it: depending on which attributes you choose, you could end-up with anything from a saint to a master criminal.

4.Create your full profile for the character, everything from basic stats and physical descriptions to a complete lifeline.

Plot her life out, determine the major plot points.

5. Take a look at what you’ve got.

What kind of gal did you create? I’m very curious. How would you describe her now, as a new personality with a new, other history? What does she like and dislike? How does she manage and what does she do with her life?

Women's Day Inspiration

Artwork by Shin Saimdang.

Who Are We – the writers of others?

It is generally thought that the writer always creates different versions of themselves when creating characters. I would say this is at least partially true, because we can only write from ourselves, our perspectives and how we understand another person’s nature. But I would add to that.

The characters we create are also inspired by how we think and feel about the other people in our lives. Those other people, those inspirations, can be anybody: a great-grandmother, a favorite (or hated) teacher, someone who sits on the bus a few seats away.

There is no person who isn’t relevant to a writer’s life, who doesn’t in some way add to the all-in process of creating stories.

So keep going, keep writing, keep observing. Then do some more.

Who inspires you? Write below and let me know.

Keep creating, no matter what.


--Download Women's Day Inspiration as PDF --

This entry is part of the series
Creative Exercises
Be sure to check out the other posts:
<< How to Overcome Depression and Write Again
K.C. Hill
Follow me!