Because I’m on various writing forums, I hear new writers asking, How do I write when I’m not inspired?
When I was a beginning writer, I wrote when inspired. At the time, I had a lot to say. My creative wells, my introspective thoughts had an outlet. Finally.
However, in that those writings, I didn’t consider audience. I didn’t consider structure. I had words on paper due to major streams of consciousness. I had no plan, no goal, so my writing was pure enjoyment.
I wrote because I wanted to. Because I had to. I was exorcising demons. I was opening up wounds and voicing feelings that once relegated to the shadows were now in full sunshine view.
And, then, the drought came.
I had nothing new to write. All my ideas were used up. I had sold some magazine articles but not at the level I wanted. The rejections far outnumbered my sales.
I needed to create new ideas and that’s where the writing became difficult. Additionally, I was young and uneducated, so my ideas were limited by my expertise, of which I had little unless I continued to write about motherhood, marriage, and gardening, none of which interested me anymore as a writer.
So, I started to write fiction. My stories had good beginnings and I knew what the endings would look like, but the journey getting there was like traveling into the desert and getting lost, where the creative juices just dried up, with no water, no oasis in sight. I was trapped among the desert dunes, also known as the sagging middle. I didn’t know what the characters should do, let alone what they should say.
Later, I would discover that I needed to plot more and panster less. But, that’s another blog.
Even after become a plotter and developed solid outlines before the real writing began, the first pages would come fast, followed by days of where I had no inspiration. I knew what the scene should look like, but, oh, putting the picture in my head into words on the page was difficult. The words wouldn’t come. One day, in fact, I sat in front of a blank screen for ten hours. Ten hours! I would start to type, then delete it. I started many sentences and removed every one of them, because nothing sounded right. To me, the writing sounded awful and continued into more awfulness.
How did successful writers do it? I wondered. So, I investigated. Here’s what I learned:
Inspiration isn’t something a writer can wait for or afford to wait for.
There are no shortcuts to inspiration.
There can be hours, days, and even weeks where lots of uninspired writing occurs.
Beginning writers often believe they can’t write unless inspired, but in reality, it’s the other way around.
Waiting for inspiration to occur before you can write is like reading the reaction of a character before the action has occurred. In stories, action occurs first, then the reaction.
In the performance of any writing—regardless of genre, length, audience, or media—the action of doing the writing occurs first. Inspiration will follow. For me, I’m not inspired again until I have completed the first draft, which is why I write the first draft as fast as I can. That’s another blog, too.
Once I’ve finished that first draft, my inspiration is as high—if not higher—as when I first thought of the idea or when I’ve completed the full outline for the story.
Granted, the initial idea, the seed for the project, is the genesis of a story’s inspiration, but the writing of the idea is gritty work, sometimes dull work, and often painful work: it’s all about putting your butt in the chair and doing the hours, doing the work.
Just start. Don’t strive for perfection. Don’t delete. Don’t edit. Don’t analyze. Don’t second-guess yourself. And, don’t go back and keep rereading from the beginning.
Regardless of whether the writing is good or bad.
That’s the secret of eventual successful writing.
The inspiration will come.
P.S. This particular blog went through several complete rewrites, with my not feeling inspired at all. I felt like I was going around in circles. Finally, I realized I was trying to cram three blogs into one. Major cuts occurred. My inspiration and my smile returned with this last draft as I proofed it.