Writers & Inspiration: 5 Things to Consider

We're tackling inspiration for the next two weeks. Here are my thoughts on the topic, as it relates to writing. 

1) Don’t wait for it.

Seriously. If you wait for inspiration to strike before you start writing, it’s going to take you a decade to write a book. Maybe longer. Writers write. Every day. Or as often as possible. So don’t be a poser and wait for inspiration, okay? You’re too good for that. Your story deserves to be told. Accept it. Say it out loud. Then get to work.

2) Don’t use it as a scapegoat.

It’s tempting to use lack of inspiration as an excuse for not writing. I won’t get into this in too much detail, but usually for me procrastination stems from fear of failure. (“Who on earth besides me will want to read this book?” “Man, you’d think I’d know how to plot a book by now.” Etcetera.) Rather than face my fears, I have, occasionally, whined about not being inspired. Really, that just allows me to procrastinate with impunity. But guess who always loses out in the end? Down time is one thing. It’s useful and necessary. But time spent immobilized by fear is a losing scenario however you slice it.

In his terrific book THE WAR OF ART, Steven Pressfield discusses Resistance –that indefinable thing that blocks you from going after your deepest aspirations and dreams. He says, “The more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul… So, if you’re paralyzed by fear, it’s a good sign. It shows you what you have to do.”

Which is to say: get back to your desk and get to work, rather than pretend you need fireworks and sparklers going off in your mind to write. 

One more quote to get us past the fear-factor, since this is one of my favorite topics:

“Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain.”

                                                     --Ralph Waldo Emerson

3) When you have inspiration, guard it.

I have cancelled on more than a few social commitments because the Muse is speaking to me. Why? Because inspiration is a gift. Those moments of inspiration give you a compass heading. They tell you this. This is how it should be. This is where you want to go. Do not refuse that gift. It’s precious. Besides refusing gifts is rude.

4) When you want inspiration, try these steps:

  • We have a whole slew of posts on this topic, so start here!
  • A long time ago I did a blog on Finding the Writing Groove, which has some suggestions for breaking through writing blocks.
  • Finally, no one knows that inspires you better than you. Start paying attention to what triggers moments of inspiration for you. Keep a list. And commit to nurturing that side of yourself. As writers, our creativity is our most valuable asset. So protect it. Care for it, and it will take care of you.

5) When it still doesn’t come, know this:

Readers can’t tell. I’m serious. That day you wanted to cry because everything you wrote felt as alive and dimensional as a piece of plywood? People don’t see it. It’s a dirty little secret, but it’s the honest truth. There have been many days over the past years that I’ve drafted or revised my novels that have feeling completely uninspired, but the end result works. Like the building of a cathedral, lots of blood, sweat and tears goes into construction, but the finished product is all stained glass and polished wood. Writing is hard work. Just because the road isn’t full of inspiration, doesn’t mean the end result can’t be inspired.

What tricks do you use to stay inspired?


Oh, #1! We should print it out on cards and hand them to the people who tell us they want to write books.

I'm determined to write into the fear today. Thanks, V.

Thanks, dude. Glad you found it helpful!

This is a fine idea, Beth. Let's do it!

Tough to do. I find it's something I have to commit to again every. single. time. Hugs to you, my love.

Am totally having one of those sweaty, cathedral-building days. And I'm pretty sure my apse is a mess.

Love these tips, especially the last one. Time to go put some hard work into my manuscript! Thanks for this.

Kristen, your message made me laugh. Then my eight-year-old, who was standing right here, wanted to know what was funny. And... well... it launched into a long conversation on cathedrals and then puns. So, uh, thanks?

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