By guest blogger, K.M. Weiland
As I point out in my recently released CD, Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration, living an inspired life can be tougher than it looks. So you wouldn’t think I’d need to show you how not to be inspired, would you? Unfortunately, it’s surprising how many little things can creep into our lives unawares and steal our creativity when we’re not paying attention. Take a look at some of the following habits. Could it be that some of them are killing your creativity?
1. Sleep first, write later. As someone who claims sleep as a favorite hobby, I’ll be the first to tell you that when I give in to the urge to slap my snooze button, instead of dragging myself out of bed to see what my characters are up to, inspiration never has a chance.
2. Fail to set goals. Goals, even modest ones, are one of the best ways to stay motivated and, in turn, to stay inspired. If you have a grand vision for the future of your writing, inspiration will ooze right out of your pores. This is how Mt. Rushmore and the Golden Gate Bridge were built—why not your magnum opus as well?
3. Allow others to guilt you out of your writing time. Non-writers have a rather annoying habit of failing to understand our need to craft fiction. But that’s no reason to let them make you feel as if your writing isn’t important. Make your writing a priority in your own life, and family and friends will eventually get the hint.
4. Fritter away your writing time on unimportant details. Writing can be the most exciting pursuit in the world—until we actually have to sit down and start typing. In the face of that daunting blank page, it’s far too easy to wimp out and start in on easier tasks: dusting the monitor, editing and re-editing what we wrote yesterday, or maybe even sharpening all our pencils down to precisely the same length.
5. Keep your mind too busy. Especially in this modern era of “go go go,” it’s far too easy to fill our minds up with busy work, and never remember to empty them. But creativity needs some quiet time. Take yourself for long walks, stare out a window, or just curl up on the couch with the cat and a cup of coffee for a few minutes every day—and let the dreams spin their webs in your head.
6. Expect perfection all the time. Nothing kills creativity faster than perfectionism, especially during a first draft. Don’t let your inner editor demand impossible perfection. Instead, train yourself and your editor to work in tandem, fixing as you go, but always moving forward and trusting that the imperfections will get ironed out in later drafts.
7. Stay in your comfort zone. If you’re writing the same old thing over and over again, you’re going to bore your readers, and probably yourself as well. Be brave. Chart new territories and step into the void of the unknown. You’ll be surprised how quickly inspiration will rush in to fill the vacuum.
8. Stop ingesting the creativity of others. It’s not enough to write every day. For every word our brain spits onto the page, we also need to be taking in ten new words. Read voraciously. Stuff your mind and soul with art in all its forms—books, movies, music, paintings, photography. Let it brew for a while, and you’ll be surprised how much richer your creative life will become.
9. Stop studying the craft. Inspiration, without education, is a well that often runs dry. Read everything you can get your hands on about writing: books, magazines, blogs. Never stop learning, and you’ll never stop being inspired.
10. Waiting for “The Zone.” It’s a sad but true fact that inspiration doesn’t always feel like inspiration. If we wait around for that electric feeling, we’re likely to do more waiting than writing. Don’t just pray for rain; prepare your ground. Inspiration is most likely to visit those who are sitting at their keyboards, typing away, even when they don’t feel particularly creative.
K.M. Weiland writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in the sandhills of western Nebraska. She enjoys mentoring other authors through her writing tips, editing services, workshops, and her recently released instructional CD Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration.
21 thoughts on “How Not to Be Inspired”
Thanks so much for having me, Katie! Sorry I wasn't able to respond to comments right away, but I'm so glad everyone enjoyed the post.
@Linda: Studying the craft, for me, is more about learning what works for other people. I'm always interested in discovering other writers' processes, taking what I glean from them, and throwing out what I don't.
@Tabitha: Once you get your family and friends on board with the idea that writing time needs to be held sacrosanct, life gets so much easier!
@Debra: "Work through the burn" – I like that. Also like "upchuck on the screen."
@Sarah: I like to call it the "infernal internal editor." When we teach it to work *with* us, it's a valuable asset. But, too often, it seems to be an enemy rather than an assistant.
@Lynn: It would be nice to have someone to keep us all accountable to our writing, wouldn't it? Writing mentors and buddies are invaluable, but ultimately whether or not we're disciplined in our craft really comes down to ourselves.
@Beth: Sleep is a hard one to pass up sometimes, isn't it?
@Laura: Anytime! We all need a boot print on our back pockets sometimes.
@Galadriel: Not *too* literally, I hope!
@T. Anne: That's something I'm always reminding myself whenever my own writing gets uncomfortable. Those who dare much, gain much.
@Erica: I'm big on goals but (at least for myself) not so big on deadlines. They tend to panic me, even when I have lots of time to meet them.
@Bonnie: Two hours a day is my own choice of writing time as well. It's long enough to get a decent amount of writing done, but not so long that it feels overwhelming or all-absorbing.
@Cindy: The comfort zone is such a nice place, but it gets pretty boring after a while.
@Keli: Maybe we should start a group: Perfectionists Anonymous.
@Shannon: Oh, so you've discovered my secret research methods, have you? 😉
@Sally: Me too. Hard to beat a warm afternoon in the shade, with a cup of coffee in hand.
@Wendy: I enjoy the rough draft best too. Editing is a slower, more thoughtful (and, sometimes, infinitely more frustrating) process.
@Catherine: It's not the setting of goals that's so hard, it's the actually fulfilling them that can get tricky!
@dellgirl: Thanks for swinging by. I'm so glad the post resonated.
@V.V.: It's ironic how just being still can sometimes be the most difficult thing of all.
"But creativity needs some quiet time."
So true, yet so difficult to do. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂
Hi, Katie. I came by way of Elizabeth's blog. I saw your post title in her side bar. It grabbed my attention and, here I am.
I love this post, thanks for sharing it. I see myself in so many of them, I won't even bother to list the numbers. It also made me think…
I hope you have a wonderful weekend!
Setting goals is the big one for me. I have to force myself to get down to it sometimes, like now!! I find myself easily distracted if I try to fit my writing time in here and there, so I try to make sure I have a day or at least a few hours, where that's what I know I will be doing. And then do it. That's the hard part!
Such great points.
Sleep is good.
#8 made me think, too. Excellent point.
And I've been blessed, of this I'm sure. I almost always find the zone during the rough draft stage. It's the editing stage that feels like removing splinters. No zone there. None at all. 😉
Have a great weekend, K.M. and Katie!
Blogger was wonky before and I couldn't post all the comments I wanted to.
I'm particularly fond of the coffee on the patio, daydreaming kind of inspiration.
Oh, my gosh, Katie – have you been stalking me?! You have, haven't you?! I feel like I'm standing naked in front of a room full of people. This post is me! Okay…I'll try really, really hard to do better. I promise. LOL. 🙂
Have a great weekend.
What a wonderful post. Number six is one of my peskiest problems since I'm a recovering perfectionist. I try hard to work on numbers eight and nine. I learn so much from other writers through both their instruction as well as their examples/published works.
That is a great list. Setting goals is such a big motivator for me and one thing I definitely need to keep reminding myself is to step out of my comfort zone.
Thanks for the list. As far as guilt goes, I don't need any help. I can mutter about unwashed dishes all by myself.
Goals are good. I've set modest goals to sit in chair and write from 10:00 till noon every day. Most of the time, it works. I also set a word goal in ACFW's NovelTrack. Picking something realistic is the key.
Love the list!
Setting goals is a big motivator for me. As is letting myself write a less-than-beautiful first draft.
Oh, Oh I agree with all of them especially number seven! I think we should make ourselves uncomfortable a little, be willing to embarrass ourselves even for our craft.
I love it! I might actually take this literally on the days I have too much work to do.
I'm guilty of #4! Thanks for the kick in the rear. 🙂
Great list, Katie (Katie W.!). I'm totally guilty of 1 & 6! Thanks Katie G. for having her on here!
Thanks Katie and K!
Sometimes I wish my characters could physically shake me, waking me and forcing me to come out and play with them. And risky games too.
#6 hits home. I'm a chronic perfectionist. It's always a struggle to turn off my internal editor when I write the first draft.
Good Stuff! Thanks Katie and … Katie!
The thrill of writing in the zone really takes a nose dive when it's gone and I'm just plugging along and everything looks like upchuck on the screen. That's when writing is SUCH WORK! How true that waiting for the creative flash again means you won't get much writing done. Just like exercising, I must 'work through the burn'
Great advise Katie. I agree, especially about protecting our writing time. I am off to the library for peace and quiet tomorrow just so I can write. My family knows I won't be home for at least four hours. They deal with it and I love them for it 🙂 A writing Mommy is a happy Mommy. So, we all win :))
Hey peeps! Just wanted to give you a heads up. Katie Weiland is super excited to read everybody's comments, but she can't get to them until Tuesday. So if you don't get a response right away, that's why. 🙂
Thanks for the comment Linda. I know lots of people who don't like craft books for that very reason. For me, they actually stimulate my creativity, but I think I'm the odd duck out for that one. 🙂
I agree with 7–it seems like there's too many people who won't take any chances. Risk is what gets you noticed. Risk is what gets you outside of what everyone else writes.
And I disagree with 9–perhaps more in how it's written. How-to books and writing advice often comes into conflict with #7. Many times, they're about what you can't do and not about the possibilities. For years, I never tried omniscient viewpoint because every writing book says, "Don't use it." I took a chance and went outside my comfort zone to try it–and found out it was the best viewpoint for me. So perhaps, a better phasing might be to study books themselves, not the how-to books.
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