Finding Inspiration: How To Get Inspired To Write
Although the simple reality is that writing, even good writing, can be done without feeling particularly inspired. Since writing is my full-time job, I simply don’t have time to wait until I’m inspired. I have to sit down at my computer and the get the work done. Sometimes I am wildly inspired and the writing flies. When I’m inspired, I’m in the moment 100%, and I’m riding a story that feels as if it’s unspooling in my head while I pound away on the keyboard.
Inspiration creates a writing ease that I appreciate more than I can say. But the reality is that inspiration doesn’t always show up, but I still have to work. I can use a certain amount of time doing the other “chores” of book creation like research or bookkeeping, but ultimately when it’s time to write, I must write. Still, since inspiration is so valuable, I have come up with some tactics to help me work in the flow of inspiration more and the slog of grinding less. In other words, I’ve learned how to get inspiration to write.
A Change is as Good as a Rest
Sometimes when I hit the wall of dullness that is lack of inspiration, I will simply take a break and relocate. I try taking a walk, taking a shower, or cleaning as they are the easiest changes I can make that regularly seem to fill the well of inspiration. Walks are helpful because they take me outside of the house where everything is in my control (well, sort of) and out into the world where little is under my direct control.
When I am not in control, adventure can happen. To be honest, big adventures don’t turn up in my neighborhood much, but sometimes little ones do. I’ve taken a walk to the cove near my house and found the water unexpectedly full of little scuttling crabs. Watching them race across the slightly muddy ground near the shore made me think about all kinds of things: how living in close confines with all your fellow crabs can get your face walked on, how walking sideways all the time seems like it really makes walking on someone’s face inevitable even for a polite crab, and how amazing it is that the last walk I’d made to the exact same spot had shown me no crabs and now I saw dozens, which made me think about nature and change. So I went home and wrote a very silly poem about a crab trying to get to his first day of school when his legs seemed determined to go anywhere but there.
I’ve been equally inspired by the rush of ideas that come when I’m showering and my mind isn’t distracted by surroundings at all. Showers can be really inspiring when I’m needing spot inspiration because I’ve hit a plotting problem and don’t know where to go. A good shower seems to unlock the solution almost magically and inspires me to rush back to the computer for more writing.
Cleaning also helps in finding inspiration, but this is desperation inspiration. I hate cleaning, so my brain tosses out bits of story inspiration in an attempt to get me to quit cleaning. That’s great for my writing, although a little hard on my ability to get the house cleaning all the way done.
Begin as You Intend to Continue
Inspiration also comes for me when I take in the product of inspiration in others. Art museums are incredible places for finding inspiration for writing. So is viewing art online. Reading books (good ones and maybe not altogether technically skilled ones with interesting stories) also inspires me. In fact, I tend to be most inspired at the beginning of a book when the story could go anywhere. I find my mind is full of the possibilities of where this idea could go. That means that if I need a quick injection of inspiration, I can read book blurbs in online bookstores or “look inside” features to read opening pages and see where the inspiration machine takes me. Once I get the idea machine cranked, I can sometimes come up with a half dozen idea that I get excited about.
I also find inspiration in movies and television shows. But (as with books) I can be equally inspired by trailers. I won’t know all about the movie from it, but trailers open my idea dam and let inspired ideas (and sometimes weird, uninspired ideas) flood in. I try to keep a notebook near me whenever I’m reading or watching a movie so I can jot down questions and ideas that come to me. This is because many of these ideas vanish if I read to the end of the book or watch the end of the movie. The ending closes the door on the ideas because they aren’t needed anymore. I know how it ends. So I have to catch the ideas and the inspiration while it’s flowing.
Finding Inspiration with Writers
Talking about writing is an inspiring thing for me. I don’t get a chance to get together with other writers very often in a live setting, but I often talk about writing online. I find that inspiration feeds inspiration, so when writers talk to me about their ideas, my own idea well is opened. Sometimes this means I can make a possible suggestion to someone who is stuck on a writing problem. And sometimes it means finding inspiration for solving my own story problem, not necessarily directly from what someone else is doing, but indirectly as some small thing about what they’re doing draws me off onto the path I needed to be on for my own story. Also, the collective energy of talking to other creative people simply seems to build on itself, allowing all of us to go away charged up a little. It’s a kind of writer’s pep rally, though with less chanting. The inspiration that comes from gathering with other writers is intense, but it can also feel a little short-lived, which is a problem if you can’t get together very often. This kind of inspiration burns hot, but short, so be sure to make notes of things that come to you right away.
Another value I get from gathering with other writers is teaching. I tend to be the workshop leader (or one of them, at least) so I come to these kinds of gatherings ready to share how I go about my writing process. And thinking deeply about how I do what I do is incredibly inspiring for me. Several times, books I’ve written were born as ideas that came to me as I explained the process of developing an idea into a book. Preparing to teach other people is an excellent way to increase your own understanding, so I do it as often as I can.
Learn Something New
For another intense inspiration blast, learning something new is another big one. I find learning to be extremely inspiring. When I read a writing book, I’m flooded with ideas simply because the book prompts me to think in new ways, with new perspectives. When I attend a writing class, I have a similar reaction, even more intense, because I’m being pulled out of my idea ruts and being pushed to do new things or to do old things in new ways. Honestly, if I had the time and the money, I’d be at a different writing workshop every weekend. I feel a similar burst of inspiration when taking online writing classes or attending online writing workshops. It’s the same process, but in the cozy confines of my own home. I’m being pushed to think in new ways and that’s always inspiring.
So, how about you? How do you get inspiration to write? When you’re in need of inspiration, what do you find fills your energy and ideas to overflowing? Change in routine? Change in location? Drinking in the inspiration of others? Learning? What gets your idea motor running? I’m always interested.
With over 100 books in publication, Jan Fields writes both chapter books for children and mystery novels for adults. She’s also known for a variety of experiences teaching writing, from one session SCBWI events to lengthier Highlights Foundation workshops to these blog posts for the Institute of Children’s Literature. As a former ICL instructor, Jan enjoys equipping writers for success in whatever way she can.