Any writer will tell you that when inspiration strikes, it feels miraculous. The planets align, all your neurons fire in tandem, and nature trills along with your giddiness. I dare say that any person who becomes a writer did so because they were struck by inspiration. A story idea. A character. A setting. A magic system. What led us all to the keyboard is the same—inspiration.
But inspiration can be fickle. Like any emotional high, it is special and rare. When we as writers have pages and pages to fill, how do we compel inspiration to come and stay a while?
Here are some suggestions.
- Sit at your computer and write. Don’t worry about punctuation, word choice, or sentence structure. Let the words flow out in a messy jumble and see where they lead.
- Break up with your keyboard. Leave your house, and better yet, leave your cell phone behind. Unplug, go for a walk, run errands, visit a friend, grab a meal, experience nature. Do something you’ve never done before or that has nothing to do with storytelling. This can be tough because so much of our lives circles back to our art, but set aside “Me Time”. You deserve it.
- Consume enriching stories. Read, read, read. Binge-watch an acclaimed TV series. Go to the movies and absorb yourself in the big screen. Take in and digest well-crafted stories as well as the not-so-great ones. Think on what you would improve. Let these ideas permeate and simmer.
- Set a deadline. Require a certain number of words/hours from yourself a day, week, month, etc. This goal should be attainable. It should motivate you, not cripple your process. Adjust these expectations as you go. Forgive yourself for falling short. Reward even the smallest accomplishment. Be open to new ideas for how best to meet your deadlines.
- Limit social media. Browse the internet, but don’t allow your Facebook feed to distract you for hours on end. You may find inspiration there, but is it more likely to come when you’re not irritated over someone’s political rant or snorting at sarcastic Disney memes. By all means, build your online platform. But don’t let that work infringe on more reliable forms of brainstorming activities.
- Have a backup art. Tethering your creative self-esteem to one manuscript could backfire. Create or build something else. Bake, quilt, sew, woodwork, draw, sing, dance, paint. Do whatever fills your spirit and helps you feel accomplished.
- Don’t play the comparison game. If so-and-so drafted a book in two weeks, great for them! Who cares if your first draft took two years? Respect your creative process by not forcing it to look like someone else’s. Write like you. Your stories are an extension of yourself. Why would you try to put that unique thing of beauty inside someone else’s box? Nothing kills inspiration quite like letting outside forces shame or discredit your hard-earned work.
- Be resilient. The publishing industry will throw a lot of unexpected twists at you, both upbeat and negative. (Pro tip: the good news can drain your creativity too.) Be ready to combat highs and lows with perseverance and remain steadfast in your determination to achieve the goals that drive you. Protect your creative process vigilantly and without regret. Wield your positivity like a shield and don’t let anything harmful get through. As you do this, you will still take hits, but your recovery time will shorten. You’ll become better practiced at staying centered and won’t let the ebb and flow moments slow you down.
- Your health is number one. Don’t sacrifice sufficient sleep, proper nutrition, or suitable recreation to satisfy the fictional perception that writers are moody, self-destructive caffeine addicts. The writing process is a mental marathon. Keep your physical faculties conditioned for optimum performance.
Inspiration does not strike once and recede like a tsunami. Inspiration comes little by little during routine events until it accumulates into a solid, recognizable idea. Inspiration comes by living.
This New Year, I hope you can keep your creative wells full and respect your personal writing process. I guarantee that inspiration will lure you back to the keyboard when you are primed for another story.
Which of these conduits to inspiration work best for you? Is there another method you’d like to share?
Emily R. King is a reader of everything and a writer of fantasy. Born in Canada and raised in the U.S.A., she’s perfected the use of “eh” and “y’all” and uses both interchangeably. Shark advocate, consumer of gummy bears, and islander at heart, Emily’s greatest interests are her four children. She’s a member of SCBWI and an active participant in her local writers’ community. She lives in Northern Utah with her family and their cantankerous cat. You can find Emily at emilyrking.com