Apr 10, 2014

Posted by in On Writing | 2 Comments

#AtoZChallenge – I is for Inspiration

(If you’re wondering what happened to “H,” you’ll have to look over on Kink & Poly – I couldn’t resist kinking it up a bit with “Hotel Bondage.”)

Where do you find inspiration? Do you need inspiration to write?  Many famous writers feel that needing to find inspiration to write is BS, and if you wait for inspiration to strike, you’ll never write.

“All this about inspiration. . . . I think writing is mainly work. Like a mechanic’s job. A mechanic might as well say he was waiting for inspiration before he greased your car because if he didn’t feel just right he’d miss a lot of the grease points, that he had to feel right up to it.”  ~ E.B. White

“I have learned, as has many another better writer, to summon inspiration to my call as soon as I begin my day’s stint, and not to hang around waiting for it. Inspiration is merely a pretty phrase for the zest to work. And it can be cultivated by anyone who has the patience to try. Inspiration that will not come at its possessor’s summons is like a dog that cannot be trained to obey. The sooner both are gotten rid of, the better.” ~ Albert Payson Terhune

I agree with that in part – too often we use a lack of inspiration as an excuse not to do the work of writing. Because the bottom line is, sometimes writing is work. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes we just have to make ourselves do it.

Screw waiting for inspiration.

On the other hand…I sincerely need inspiration to write well. To write with passion. To write prose that moves me and, hopefully, moves others. But I don’t wait for inspiration to strike (at least when I’m on top of my writing game.) I look for inspiration all the time, all around me, and store it up for those times when I need it most. It’s called “filling the creative well.” (I can’t recall where I first read that – possibly in Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life? Which book, by the way, is amazing. If you haven’t read it, go get it, now. Seriously.)

How do I keep my creative well full?

  • Keep a notebook. I keep a notebook with me at all times so that when that perfect opening sentence floats into my mind, or I see something that strikes my imagination, or I read something I want to write about later, I have a place to put it. I also have an app on my phone for this, and use my recorder on my phone. I’ve even called myself and left voicemail so I wouldn’t forget.
  • Indulge in a change of scenery. If I’m feeling uninspired in my home office, I head over to the library, or a coffee shop, or even head outside with a notebook and -gasp- write longhand. You’ll be surprised at how new surroundings can freshen up your writing, and fill you with the aforementioned “zest” again.
  • Take time out from actual writing to experience the world around you. I know, that sounds counter to the “just write, just do it!” adage, but seriously…take time to live in the world. Experience the world, so you have new experiences to write about. I try to hike a new trail or take walks in new neighborhoods at least a couple times a month, taking time to follow my curiosity and really observe the world around me. But this can also include going to concerts or to a park or exploring a new bookstore or…anything really. Your characters have lives – give yourself one so that you have something to draw from.
  • Do something repetitive that doesn’t involve your creative mind. It’s true, if you give your creative mind a break, it will sit back there and cook up all kinds of ideas. So pull weeds or swim laps or crochet. Not as avoidance, but in order to give your creative mind a chance to recharge.
  • Do something completely unlike yourself. Pick something – anything new, anything that if your best friend heard you were doing it they would say, “You’re doing what?”- and give it a try. Then pay attention to how it feels to be doing something completely outside your ken, your comfort zone.
  • Keep a list of writing prompts. I actually have several books of prompts, and have been collecting websites that have them as well (I’ll share more on prompts and memes later.) I don’t often use prompts to write “for real” (as in the story that I am trying to work on), but I occasionally use them to “kick start” my creative juices when they are at a lull.

Those are just a few ideas. Now it’s your turn. Go out and fill your well!  Then you won’t have to wait for inspiration, it’ll be right there waiting for you.


  1. “I” really is for inspiration!

    When I’m in a rough spot if feels as though there’s nothing to write about, then when I am in the proper frame of mine, there are so many choices of topics it can be overwhelming. So many kinks, so little time . . .
    Michael Samadhi recently posted…“J” is for the Joy of KinkMy Profile

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