Sometimes an idea for a book comes from nowhere and demands that I tell its story. One of my works-in-progress was inspired by this out-of-the-blue idea: an angel dressed as a candy striper visits an old man in a nursing home and gives him the opportunity to go back in time for a second chance at love.
I love those flashes of inspiration. As a writer, it’s what gets my motor running.
But great ideas don’t morph out of the ether all that often. If I always waited for a story to come to me, I might be waiting a long time between ideas. Sometimes you have reach deep inside yourself, and pull that story out.
So I need to actively work at inspiring myself, to help me find ideas for stories, and to keep me motivated to write. How do I do that?
Reading always inspires me. If I read something particularly good I’ll think I want to write something this wonderful. Making time to read is not only a joy, it’s a necessity.
Sometimes a change of scenery will fuel inspiration. It can be as simple as taking my laptop outside on the deck on a beautiful summer day. I don’t often get a chance to travel to a location I want to use as a setting in a book, but when it happens, the ideas fire in all directions. Every year I spend a few days at a writing retreat. For three or four days, I can leave the world behind and fully concentrate on writing. It’s a wonderful luxury that inspires my creativity.
It might sound counter-intuitive, but sometimes taking a break from writing is exactly what I need to re-inspire and re-motivate. I can only push so far before the well dries up. In THE ARTIST’S WAY, Julia Cameron talks about filling that well. Maybe I’ll meet friends, or bake a pie, or go to an art gallery. Or perhaps some retail therapy is called for. I often find that after taking a short break to fill the well, I’m better able to work out a previously insurmountable plot problem.
Sometimes I’m inspired by remembering my past writing successes. I’ve come a long way, but I don’t always remind myself of that. Instead I concentrate on the things I’ve yet to accomplish. I need to be kinder to myself, because that inspires me much more than beating myself up.
Inspiration is important, of course. I believe inspiration provides us with the excitement and joy in our work. But never underestimate the power of perseverance and nose-to-the-grindstone hard work. That’s what takes us to ‘The End’.
How do you fill the well when you don’t have a drop of inspiration left?