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.