Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Don't Wait for Inspiration to Strike: Good or Bad Advice?

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I'm sure you've heard it before: Professional writers don't wait for inspiration to strike in order to work. They discipline themselves. Force themselves to write, even when they come across a writer's block.

But what if the inspiration well is completely dried out? What happens when our lack of passion reflects in our story?

Although I do agree that professional writers should treat writing as a job rather than a hobby, I believe it's equally important that we do not lose our inspiration or passion. Yes, we need to discipline ourselves to write every day -- and every day, our inspiration well should be filled and ready to be poured into our writing.

But if it's not -- if the words refuse to come and we can't seem to grasp the passion we once had for the story -- it's OK to take a break. To close the laptop and participate in activities that will reignite your writing passion once again.

Personally, I've greatly benefited from this. Going into this new year, I was determined to write a fast draft of the sequel to Purple Moon. Determined to have it completed within only a couple of months.

But as I began to write, I felt as though I were swimming against a current, and it took every bit of my energy to write just a little every day. My writing sessions profited little. Fears about not meeting readers' expectations paralyzed my fingers and numbed my passion. I continued to try to push through as I've always been told -- but why force myself to write a story when the inspiration is lacking?

So, I allowed myself to step away from the story for a few days. I spent that time immersed in activities that filled my creativity tank and reignited my passion. Not only that, but I also listened to the sequel's soundtrack, added photos to its Pinterest board, and reminded myself of why I love Selena's story and why it must be told.

By the time I went back to writing, I was ready to pour this reignited passion into my book, which resulted in far more productive writing sessions.

If you, too, are going through a dry season, I highly recommend that you step away from your manuscript for a few days. Remind yourself of why you fell in love with this story to begin with. Make a soundtrack and storyboard for your novel.

Then, write a list of "dates" you can take with your artist self -- a list of activities that will fill your inspiration well once again and tear down your writer's block.

Here's my go-to list for overcoming a writer's block: 
  • Spend time with my Creator.
  • Go to Books-a-Million. Buy a book and a mocha from Joe Muggs. {I personally love Joe Mugg's mocha far more than Starbucks!}
  • Read physical books. {Recently, I've been immersed in A Well Spring Series by Jim Rubart.}
  • Listen to a variety of music, including your WIP's soundtrack.
  • Scroll through Pinterest and Tumblr.
  • Go to an art museum. {Art, photography, and music always have the power to fill my creativity tank and inspire me to write again. In fact, the story of Purple Moon was birthed through a photograph and a song by Tenth Avenue North.}
  • Write in your journal. 
  • Read previous journal entries.
  • Make lattes.
  • Make art journals.
  • Color in a coloring book.
  • Doodle.
  • Take a walk. 
  • Do pilates. 
  • Watch a movie. 

You know what's funny?

I don't remember writing Purple Moon. Honestly. Writing the first draft took up probably 10% of the amount of time I invested in that book. And the reason I didn't come across a writer's block was because I wasn't writing for an audience; I was writing for myself. I was writing because I was filled with inspiration, had a passion for the story, and knew it needed for it to be told -- not because I was forcing myself to write.

From now on, I'm going to give myself permission to take a break when necessary. I don't want my stories to be written with an "I don't want to do this but I'm forcing myself to anyway" attitude. I believe my books will be far more powerful if they are written not just out of "duty", but out of passion -- just like I did with Purple Moon.

So here's my advice to you:

Write like an artist who is in love with their work. Edit like a professional who has studied the craft and wants to shape their book into one that their readers will enjoy as well.

Remember: While it is important to stay disciplined in your writing, your story will come across as boring if you remained bored with it as well. Drawing from an empty well is exhausting. Stay refueled. Stay inspired. And most importantly: Write not for publication, but because of passion.

~ ~ ~ 

Do you have an inspiration list? If not, what are activities you could add? Does taking a break help or hinder your writing progression? 

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