Writing: Inspiration

Inspiration. The desire to go out and do something. To make something. To be something. It’s what drives everyone, from chefs, to engineers, to musicians, to artists. In order to do anything at all, people need to be inspired by the world around them, and writers are no different. When we sit down to write, it’s almost impossible to get anything down in the paper unless you have something driving you to actually type or write out… anything, really. Planning, the story, even a blog post. Without inspiration, producing anything is extremely difficult, and it usually comes out as complete crap. Nothing flows, the characters are dull and boring, and no one wants to read it.

Really there isn’t much you can do to get that massive strike of inspiration which allows you to write thousands of words in one day, when normally you can barely manage a hundred or so. Inspiration comes when inspiration wants, and if you don’t have it, really the best thing you can do is wait it out.

Only, that’s annoying. I hate going days, weeks, even months without inspiration, especially when I’m on a deadline, or I have so little time to write and whenever I have free time, I have nothing. It always works this way, of course. Being in college, it’s hard to get around classes and homework to find time to write, and of course, the greatest amount of inspiration happens to come in my Chinese class, when I actually need to focus. So I’ve devised a few techniques that have really helped me focus when I need to focus.

The first thing I do is listen to the same songs over, and over, when I write. For instance, with The First Nine, I listened to Evanescence’s first album on repeat over and over as I wrote the story. Now, whenever those songs come on all I can think about is Mia, Derek, and Cody, how the demons affect their lives. Likewise, with Childhood, I listened to Linkin Park for ten days straight as I wrote the first draft. Whenever I listen to that band, I either think of the concert I went to, or Jarod and Fithin trudging through the woods, trying to survive as everything seems determined to kill them.

This method works great for people who associate music with memories. I know I do. When I hear a song I picture what I was doing when I first heard that song, or when I obsessed over it (as I do with new music). So if I picture myself writing certain books, when those songs come on my mind immediately goes to those stories and the inspiration just flows. Like right now, I’m preparing for NaNo by listening to Fall Out Boy’s new album, which I listened to this summer when planning my dragon story. Since I’m writing that for NaNo, I figured I’d get into the mood a day early. It really helps me, and it might help others as well. Try it sometime.

Another technique has to do with nature. I grew up on a lake. Life flourished in my backyard, with fish jumping, pelicans fishing, bald eagles soaring the skies, foxes stalking their next pray, and herons guarding the shallows. For most of my life I’ve been surrounded by nature, and needless to say it’s been a huge factor in my inspiration. I have an entire book that takes place in the mountains of Colorado. Childhood’s terrain is partially based off of the beautiful terrain I’ve witness in my home state all of my life. So when I get a block on a story, I take my handy iPod and go on a walk. Sometimes I don’t play any music and just let the lull of nature seep in all around me. Don’t live in a place with a lot of wilderness? Think of the city as a jungle. The buildings are trees, the people are either friendly animals, or enemies. Streets are no longer pavement, but rushing rivers and the cars are carp.

We’re writers! Our imagination shouldn’t go away just because we aren’t kids. And when you allow your imagination to flow free, and you find yourself lost in nature, whether real or imagined, I’ve found that inspiration loves to strike. When I was younger especially (time just doesn’t let me now) I loved to go on a hike and just sit. While my brothers ran ahead, and my step-mom just tried to keep us wrangled, I would have preferred to sit on a rock and stare out at the vast plains, or through the dense trees and imagine what my characters would do if they were here. How would they react to the nature and the world around me. And through that, I always gained inspiration to write.

And finally, my last technique, and the one I end up utilizing most often to be honest, is to bring with me a pen and paper wherever I go, just in case. Like I said, inspiration loves to hit me in the worst of times, and I can’t always have my laptop out, so what I do is I just jot down notes. My notes in high school were covered with story ideas. Going through my backpack at the end of the year I found so many little scribbles and notes about different stories. When I don’t have paper, I write on myself. This keeps you from losing that idea, because when you write something – particularly handwrite something – it sticks with you so much longer than if you just think it.

Whenever I do this, I sit through class, desperate for the teacher to let us go, and I read my idea over, and over, so when I finally get home I haven’t lost that inspiration.

Now, there are probably a hundred other ways to force yourself to be inspired, but the true brightened bulbs of genius don’t come from force. A little coaxing, maybe, but if you force yourself too much, you lose something special that true inspiration brings. Besides, we all need a break now and then, and sometimes that’s the fix. Just sitting back, closing your eyes, and focusing on anything but what you want to work on.

Inspiration is a fickle little thing. It can’t be tamed, and it can’t be forced, even though we need it for almost everything we love to do. It can come from nature, from music, or even from someone you look up to. But at the end of the day, inspiration needs to come from inside. An unstoppable, internal drive.

What about you guys? Is there something you do to help move the inspiration blocks along?


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