Tag Archives: inspiration

The Importance of Something


Writing advice!

It’s mostly garbage. It’s almost always situational. What works for one may not work for another. These things are known.

But I want to remind myself, and all of us involved in these creative endeavors, of one of my favorite aphorisms: “Inspiration exists, but it has to catch you working.”

Inspiration!

It’s this wonderful, terrible, magic, not-magic thing. In that it feels like magic, but somehow it only seems to show its face when you’re already working. The work creates the inspiration, and then the fleeting sparks of inspiration set the work on fire.

If you’re not putting words on the page (or paint on the canvas or whatever choose-your-metaphor), then the words have nowhere to go even if your brain has one of those legendary waves. And the best way to push through a problem in your story is often to just keep writing, keep giving the characters something to do, keep flinging their bodies against the wall until you pile up enough pieces to step over.

And that’s true! Grinding away at your story is the only way to get through it.

But the funny thing is, inspiration doesn’t care what you’re working on. Inspiration strikes when it strikes and it says what it says and it says no more, and it won’t be forced and it won’t be guided.

And the funny thing is, sometimes it strikes in ways that are not immediately useful. Case-in-point: today I’m grinding out edits for my superhero story and bang, crash, the lightning flashes and provides me with the answer to a problem that had my other story thoroughly and entirely mud-stuck. And because I was sitting at the computer anyway, working on the first story, it was easy for me to tab over, write out some notes on the other idea so it didn’t flitter away into the screaming chasm of my inadequate brain to be forgot forever, and get back to what I needed to be working on.

Which is to say that when you’re not feeling the inspiration, you have to work on something Do something, anything to keep the juices flowing and the soil fertile, because you have no way to know when the lightning is going to strike.
But you darn sure want to be ready when it does.


Beta is Better


You need space from your work if you want to perfect it.

I know this, because I am only the tiniest bit obsessive about my work and I can still spend hours and days fine-tuning paragraphs and pages and finding new things to fix far beyond the time when the fine-tuning is actually improving the situation.

This is a problem, and it’s not a thing you can simply “turn off”. While you’re in the thick of it — editing, in my case, or whatever your chosen discipline does to self-correct errors in the first drafts — you can’t detach.

You reach that point where you have to let the thing sit for a while. Let it mellow. Let the dust settle. And if possible, have somebody who isn’t you have a look at it in the meantime.

Coming back to my novel after letting it lie for a month? The edits are coming fast and … well, I won’t say easy (because editing is never easy). But paired with notes from a couple of faithful readers whose input I believe in, the editing process feels about 90% less painful than when last I left it back in January.

Moral of the story: let your project rest for a little while.

And get some beta readers.


Self-Delusion


You ever notice how much we lie to ourselves?

We lie to ourselves *a lot*.

It’s this weird, insidious thing that we do to let ourselves off the hook for the things we know we should be doing.

And the thing is, we lie to ourselves knowing that the lies are exactly that: lies. We hope that those lies become the truth.

But lies don’t become truth just because you hope they will become truth, or just because you keep telling them to yourself as if they are truth.

How are you lying to yourself?

And are you brave enough to tell yourself the truth?


Creating Should Be Fun


We all have that image in our mind, right? The haggard writer, stooped with their spine bent over the keys, tumbler of coffee (or something stronger) clutched in spindly fingers, red-rimmed raccoon eyes staring at the page.

Tortured. Tormented.

And you know the thing about stereotypes: there’s always a grain of truth. Sometimes more than a grain. We think of that because we’ve all been there — as you fight to get the story just right, as you push and pull and strive and struggle, you smile less, you agonize more. You hate the work some days and other days it feels like the work hates you right back.

But creating can’t be like that *all* the time. I mean, if the writing is like that *all* the time, why are you doing it?

On a good day, the writing is like turning on the hose on a hot summer day — it’s crisp and it’s clear and it flows without end. It’s almost like magic.

I haven’t had enough good days with my writing lately, and I wonder if it’s not because I was trying to make the wrong project happen. I switched gears today and I recaptured a little of that magic. So if you’re like me — struggling for days, weeks, months with your writing — maybe do yourself a favor and give that project a break. A *little* one, at least. And let your brain work on a project it wants to work on. Let it stretch its legs.

Find that magic again. And if you can’t?

Create new magic.


One Little Step


2020 broke us.

2021 is following it up strong, so far.

And there’s so much stuff everywhere, all the time, clamoring for our attention. Bad news headlines. Infuriating politics. Frightening developments. And then, at the same time, we all live in our own little tornadoes of uncertainty. Whose job or daily routine hasn’t been shaken up — if not shaken to its foundations — by the events of the past year? Nothing feels certain. Nothing feels dependable.

Every day we’re asked to give more, and every day after that, we’re asked again, as if the previous day’s ask never happened. There’s always more: more to do, more to think about, more to be responsible for.

And it’s easy — amidst all that “more” — to get overwhelmed. To see all that clutter and pressure and stuff and think I’ll never get through it. To fall into that dread: that the tasks are too big, the obstacles too impassable. Dread turns to despair. Despair turns into inaction. And inaction makes everything that was merely bad before become catastrophic.

How do we get past these things?

Take one step. Just one. A tiny step forward, whether that’s a step toward a goal or a step around an obstacle or just a step away from the dread and despair. And you don’t let inaction overtake you, don’t let despair define you. You take a step, even if it feels tiny and insignificant, because nothing else happens without that first step. One step follows the next. Once you’ve taken that step, you take another. And then another. And then you look behind you and you realize that you have made progress, you did accomplish something, even if the steps themselves felt like nothing.

There’s this story I saw a few years ago about the world’s largest beach cleanup. Mumbai had one of the dirtiest, most litter-stricken beaches in the world. Plastic and garbage and junk as far as the eye could see, and nothing to be done about it. Cleaning it up was unheard of: an impossible task. Until one person decided to get out there and start cleaning it up.

And when that person stepped up, so did others. And others. A little bit at a time. One person providing inspiration to another. The efforts cascaded. And within a year, the place had been transformed.

On the left, a photograph of part of Versova beach taken on August 6, 2016. On the right is an image of the beach tweeted on May 20, 2017.
On the left, a photograph of part of Versova beach taken on August 6, 2016. On the right is an image of the beach tweeted on May 20, 2017. (via CNN)

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Step forward. Do something. Do anything.


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