In a brilliant interview in The Paris Review, E. B. White said, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” To allow the seeds of inspiration grow into tiny shoots and push through the soil, like the magnificent miracles they are, you need to metaphorically water them with consistent action.
No matter how many books on writing you read, courses you do or conferences you attend, unless you also actively attend to the process, your ability to write with the fluidity and transcendence you yearn for will always feel a little out of reach. While honing your craft is important, it’s through the act of writing that you better your skill, and in turn your enjoyment of writing too.
Everyone has days where they don’t feel as inspired or creative as they could, here are eight ways to reignite your passion for writing and write, even if your muse has temporarily deserted you.
Sometimes the words flow seamlessly as your fingers dance across the keyboard or glide across the page. Other times, no matter hard you try, you end up with a clumsy mess but key in the process is consistent, daily action. How ever you feel in this moment, if you wish to create, the finest decision you can make for your writing is to practice every day.
There is power in consistent action, a power that swiftly becomes its own motivation. Action in pursuit of our goals gives us the buzz we need to begin and keep going, while writing on a daily basis will quicken your craft quite unlike anything else.
Even if you only have time to write 200 words a day, it swiftly builds up no matter how humble your daily word count is. “Waiting for the right time, the right situation, or the right inspiration, well, that’s for amateurs,” says author Tom Robbins.
Dancing too Close
No one enjoys the creative unease that occurs when we become a little too concerned with the outcome. The mind likes to find solutions and solve puzzles, lingering too long in uncertainty can become its own vicious cycle. Each time you consider your work inferior, those limiting beliefs sabotage your potential for both creative success and the thrill of the ride, which you miss when entangled in wants and shoulds of how you believe your writing to be.
If you find yourself struggling to voice the words you wish to, you are not letting yourself go into the process and allowing your true voice to speak. Writing in this way can make our work feel strained and choked of all its goodness. The nectar is still there but deep underneath and any anxieties can lead to an over analysis of your writing.
If an author is dancing too close to the work their words cannot breathe, let alone move to the music. So instead of stepping on feet, allow your writing to dance by gracing it with the space and freedom it needs to flourish.
“People spend their entire lives trying to find the right way to write, or trying to find the “perfect” formula – but in that time all their passion for writing withers away,” says author, speaker and writing coach, Stephanie Lennox. “No one can teach you how to write…you have to teach yourself by doing.” Drop your judgment and perfectionism, even if only while actively writing. You can always edit later but as Nora Roberts so rightly said, you cannot edit a blank page.
Step Away from the Manuscript
Although writing every day is key in improving your craft, it’s always beneficial to vary your projects. If you’ve been writing a novel for some time, the characters, setting and inner landscape of the story itself can frequently become such a deep part of its author, that judging its merits and flaws becomes a little tricky.
Equally, other long writing projects can cause our passion to waver. Perhaps when reading back your work-in-progress it doesn’t flow as freely as it could or you find yourself repeatedly tweaking it.
If you’re unable to let go of a piece of writing because you’re stuck in an editing Groundhog Day, take a step back, metaphorical and otherwise, and set aside the manuscript. “Put it aside for a few days, or longer, do other things, try not to think about it. Then sit down and read it (printouts are best I find, but that’s just me) as if you’ve never seen it before,” says author Neil Gaiman.
“Start at the beginning. Scribble on the manuscript as you go if you see anything you want to change. And often, when you get to the end you’ll be both enthusiastic about it and know what the next few words are. And you do it all one word at a time.” Your motivation is likely to wane if you’re unsure of the quality of your writing.
It’s easy to become trapped in a place where nothing reads well because you are too intimate with the work. Working on other writing projects and creating a space between you and your manuscript reminds you why you’re writing it in the first place, which brings powerful motivation and renewed passion too.
“When you take a break, give your book the best chance to win you back. Read some novels that are like it, to remember why you love that kind of story,” says author, editor and storytelling aficionado, Roz Morris. “Do you still have the very first notes you made? It’s always worth keeping notes from the honeymoon period. Dig them out and find what got you excited in the first place.”
Free-writing is the secret of every good writer, fiction and non-fiction alike. There’s something magical about ignoring your internal red pen and simply allowing your words to mystically move across the page. Of course, some of it may be nonsense but frequently leads to encountering gems. The act of creating anything is always nurturing to your passion and your projects.
“Freewriting is basically splurging onto the page or screen, regardless of grammar, spelling, quality or any other critical issue. The point is to remove inhibitions and let the ideas flow, to connect with your creativity,” says Roz Morris.
Allow the words to strike the flint in your imaginative Zippo, even if at first it sparks nothing that you perceive as good. Instead of pausing to analyse, keep writing. The seeds you sow during a session of free-writing may be all it takes to generate a new inspiration or idea for a manuscript you are working on, or even rekindled passion for a writing project that now nurtures instead of irks your soul.
Of course it may not always be wonderful writing but to have written at all will increase your craft and ability, while increasing the habit, and thus likelihood of you writing regularly. “The more consistently you work on creative projects, the less you’ll even think about that finicky muse,” says Alex Zamorski, author and founder of Calamus Works. “Get into the habit of creating on your own terms and you’ll never sit around waiting for inspiration again.”
Trust the Process
All these techniques are wonderfully effective but without trusting the process your writing can become an uncomfortable act. Trust often starts out as a simple decision. In choosing to be supportive of yourself, kind and encouraging, instead of being critical or self-depreciating, and writing on a consistent basis, you’ll find the doubts gradually drift away leaving you present in the process of actively creating.
Left unattended the mind can come up with all kinds of ‘reasons’ why you think your work is not creative or good enough but never buy into this doubt. When your writing is thwarted by apprehension of the final product it can feel strained. The critical part of your mind can inevitably attempt to thwart your progress but keep going and write.
Allowing yourself to be seduced by the internal chatter or engage with negative thoughts will not only make you unhappy but also short-change your ability to be creative. Doubt always kills creativity but trust is the carrot that lures your wonderful words onto the page.
Find Your Most Creative Time
Everyone has their own personal ebbs and flows of energy. Some find that they are most creative last thing at night; others find it’s the early morning that fuels their creative fires. Whichever time of day you find you are at your best, try to schedule in your creative work then for optimum results.
“I arrive in my writing room at ten every weekday morning. That way, my muse always knows where and when to find me. She doesn’t have to go looking for me in the bars or on the beach or along the boulevards. She doesn’t always show up, true enough, but she knows where I’ll be, and that way I don’t miss any opportunities,” says Tom Robbins. Find your most creative time and write at that time every day you’re able to.
Be Your Own Muse [Don’t Wait for Inspiration]
Writers tend to either embrace this idea of a muse magically bestowing ideas or loathe it but whatever your perspective on the mystical muse, waiting for inspiration will result in very little writing. “A lot of creative folks get stuck on the idea that they need to feel inspired in order to produce creative work,” says Alex Zamorski.
“You’re discrediting yourself as a creative professional when you give too much power to the muse. Remind yourself that you are the one producing the great creative work. You are the one who worked hard to get here.” When you write anyway, create anyway, regardless of whether you feel like it or not, you find the need to be inspired to write is no longer an issue.
“If you’re only going to write when you’re inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet, but you will never be a novelist — because you’re going to have to make your word count today, and those words aren’t going to wait for you, whether you’re inspired or not. So you have to write when you’re not inspired,” says author Neil Gaiman. Think of your writing as an essential part of your day like brushing your teeth. You don’t need to feel inspired to brush your teeth and it’s the same with your writing.
Start Writing [No Matter What]
Putting things of is a great way of doing nothing at all but beginning something naturally creates the momentum to continue. Action is a powerful motivator yet it’s easy to get trapped behind the window of uncertainty or doubt.
Sometimes this fear acts a block between you and the very space from which your creative offerings radiate but the longer you wait for magical ideas to be bestowed upon you, the further inspiration will slip from your grasp. Untying the knots that bind your creativity through action is perhaps the most effective antidote there is.
Instead of resisting, you write. Instead of feeling thwarted and your writing being thwarted too, enjoy the boldness, genius and magic that Goethe spoke of by beginning and start the writing project, scene or chapter that you’ve until been avoiding. Beginnings bring the creative fuel you need to continue.
“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on,” said Louis L’Amour. Rather than allowing yourself to become irritated or unbalanced when your writing isn’t as fluid as you wish it to be, you have at your fingertips the finest antidote of all, action.