Goodreads has an author Q&A set up on their site, and every once in a while, a reader will ask me a question there. But Goodreads itself has a few questions hanging there if an author wants to answer one. I decided to answer one of them today. That question is How do you get inspired to write?
I don’t know that the Jade of today could give you a fair, honest answer like the Jade of several years ago. Today, writing is more than just a hobby or something fun. It’s a job. Well, that’s not entirely true either. If you were to ask a marathon runner how she gets inspired to run, I’m sure my answer would be similar to hers. It’s a passion, a drive, something I must do because it’s a part of me. But, for aspiring writers, that response might seem lame, so I am also going to answer in a way that I would tell some of my creative writing students.
First off, in my mind, there are two “types” of “inspiration.” The initial kind is an underlying desire—a want—to write. You don’t necessarily have any ideas in mind; you just know that when you sit down and create something out of nothing, you feel good. Something inside you grows and feels fulfilled during the process. That said, that kind of inspiration might leave you feeling disappointed if you have no ideas to follow it up with.
That leads to the second type of inspiration—where you actually feel driven to write something particular. Maybe you had a dream that sparked your imagination or something happened in real life that you felt compelled to write about. You might have even been browsing through prompt ideas online and thought, “OMG! I have to write THAT!”
But then you sit down at the keyboard and that damned little cursor blinks at you, emphasizing all the white space on the screen you’re staring at…and the more it blinks, the more it feels like it’s mocking you…and the more pressure you feel. Ugh! So how do you feel inspired when you’re confronted by THIS scenario?
The first thing I recommend is that you force yourself to write—every day for around the same time every day and the same amount Every. Single. Day. If you liken yourself to the marathon runner, you train. A marathon runner trains by stretching and running, if not every day, pretty damn close. A writer who is serious does the same—and I promise you that if you do it consistently, it will be easier–and you will get better.
That still doesn’t mean it’s a simple task, especially if your well of ideas is dry. Sometimes it helps to just write to a prompt. The internet has the collective ideas of our entire planet at your fingertips. You can search for “writing ideas” or “writing prompts” and I promise you that you’ll have an abundance of ideas to tap. Keep searching until something sparks your imagination if you can. If you’ve searched and searched and searched but find nothing interesting, then just take an idea and force yourself to write for ten minutes. Yes, ten minutes writing about something you don’t give a crap about—and you might even spend that writing time typing out how much you hate that damn idea. That’s fine. As long as you’re writing, you’re training. Do this daily for a month or two and you’ll find that inspiration is what you make it. All you’ll need is an idea and you’ll find yourself tapping away at the keyboard, one word at a time.
When I first started publishing in 2011, I fretted over what would happen when I ran out of ideas. I never have…and the ideas themselves are the inspiration.