Inspiration is one of those strange forces, isn’t it? Before I started writing, I would imagine sitting down in front of a blank piece of paper, taking several deep breaths, and waiting for an inspiring thought to take over.
News flash: It does not work that way.
I mean, yes, there have been times once in a while where I’ll be struck with a good idea while staring at the blank page, but most of my ideas have come while I’m doing something completely different. At work, in the car, right before I go to bed.
It’s funny how that happens. When I want to come up with ideas, I sometimes struggle with it, but when I’m out in the world, doing something completely unrelated to writing? BOOM! I can be hit like a bolt of lightning with an idea.
That doesn’t mean that you have to walk around, waiting for inspiration to strike.
Check out my 3 tips for harnessing the power of inspiration!
Seriously. I know it might sound a bit woo-woo if you’ve never meditated before, but there’s something about quieting your mind and being still that can cause an idea to float into your mind.
If you’re new to meditation, try sitting in a quiet space in a position that’s comfortable. Take several deep breaths, maybe in through your nose, out through your mouth. If your mind tends to wander (which, let’s be honest, almost everyone’s mind does), try counting each breath.
Inhale, exhale, focus on the number one.
Inhale, exhale, focus on the number two.
And so on.
And there you go! You’re meditating! Sometimes, if it’s a busy morning, I will take just three minutes to do some deep breathing. I’ll immediately feel more relaxed and my mind will feel refreshed, open, ready for new ideas.
Make sure you’re prepared.
Take notes on your phone, a notebook, anything. Just make sure you have something with you in case an idea comes. This happens a lot to me right before bed. When I’ve just turned off the light and settled under the covers, my mind will come up with an idea for a problem I’ve having with one of my characters. Or I’ll get a brilliant idea for a new short story.
Write these down! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought to myself, oh, I’ll remember that in the morning and write it down then.
And then morning would come, I’d hop out of bed, and sometime in the middle of the day, I’d remember there was something I was supposed to do. Some idea I was supposed to write down. But for the life of me, I can never remember it.
If you’re not someone who likes to carry a notebook around, make sure you have a notes app on your phone in case inspiration strikes while you’re out away from your computer or journal or wherever your creative writing resides.
Some of my best ideas have come when I’ve put down my current project and started something else.
When I was working on my book, I got to a point in the middle of the process where I felt like I couldn’t make the story work. I was going back on forth on whether I should keep a character in the story or remove her entirely from a section of the novel.
I couldn’t really move forward with the story until I made this big decision. So I became almost paralyzed by it. I would sit down with my computer and when I set my hands on the keyboard, nothing would come out.
So I switched gears. An idea for my second book had been swimming in my mind for a while, and it was a relief to begin working on the story outline and delve into new characters. I started writing a draft of the first few chapters and didn’t think about my first book at all while writing this second one.
When I had several chapters written, I set that project aside and took a small break from writing. I tried not to think about either book. At the end of that period, I shifted back to the first book and felt ready to tackle the big character issue. I made a decision and moved forward with the rest of the manuscript.
Sometimes that’s what our brains need - space and time to solve a problem. Feeling stuck, like you have to make a decision right then and there, puts stress and urgency into the situation. It’s better to just take a breath, shift gears, and come back to it later.
Finally, my #1 tip for what not to do. This is one big mistake that new writers can make.
After all that talk about inspiration, don’t wait until you’re feeling inspired to sit down and write.
Let me repeat this: do not wait until you’re feeling inspired. Just write! Write when you’re feeling uninspired, when it seems like you’re out of good ideas, when you only have five minutes, when you’ve fallen out of love with the story.
Writing is a habit, a practice. If you think you can only write when conditions are optimal and you’re feeling inspired or when creativity seems to be shooting out the ends of your fingertips, you will probably never write.
I made this mistake a lot when I first started. I would look at the blank page on my computer screen and think, hmmm, I’m not really sure what to write in this next paragraph, maybe I can just come back to it when I’ve got the next scene figured out.
And then I’d start getting ready for work and my only chance for writing that day would be gone because I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired during my scheduled writing time.
So, what do you think? Have you ever struggled with feeling uninspired? Is there anyone out there who does only write when they’re feeling super inspired (because I would love to talk to you and figure out your secrets!) Let me know in the comments below!