Running On Inspiration

When I talk to my non-writer friends, I find that a lot of them still think of writing as a nebulous but romantic hobby that runs on creativity, passion, and inspiration.

When they hear that I’m a writer, they picture me sitting at a desk, pondering the questions of the universe until my eyes suddenly light up and I shout “Eureka!” before grabbing a quill pen and a notebook, writing until I have a complete story to hand over to my publisher.

Inspiration VS Effort

Even among myself and my fellow writers, I’ve noticed that we tend to put inspiration up on a pedestal like it’s the end-all be-all for writing stories.

And don’t get me wrong—inspiration is great. 12/10 stars! Would purchase again if that was an option!

I absolutely love it when I get ideas for stories, characters, worlds, or anything else that could possibly help me with my writing.

Most of the time when I write, things like descriptions or action scenes don’t come easily to me. I have to make a conscious effort to produce descriptions that actually sound good and flow well.

Writing that “Two characters walked into the pretty garden and enjoyed the scenery.” is a lot easier to write than “The garden sparkled in the late afternoon sunlight. Flowers boasting shades of pink, yellow, white, violet, and red swayed, blown about by the breeze. Sunbeams reflected off the clear water in the fountains, and bees buzzed by on their way to collect nectar from within the patiently waiting petals. ”

Inspiration As A Tool

One thing I learned when I decided that I wanted to become a professional writer is that inspiration needs to be a tool—not a crutch.

If I only ever wrote when I was “inspired to write” then I would never finish a single story.

Inspiration and enthusiasm might get me halfway through a manuscript, but dedication and determination are the only things that will see me through to the end.

So how do I write when I’m not inspired?

Having A Plan

For one thing, it does help if I have some sort of outline.

If I was better at not getting distracted or sidetracked while writing, then I would gladly be a discovery writer. But alas, I am not, so having an outline reminds me what my goal is—where I want the story to end up by the time it’s finished.

That way, instead of relying on inspiration to dictate my next course of action, I can look back at the outline and use it to motivate me.

Setting The Mood

Another thing that usually helps me is music. 

When I’m struggling to picture how a place in my story looks, or having trouble imagining how a character is feeling in a particular scene, putting on some instrumental music that fits the theme/mood I’m writing can help me figure out what to write.

I just have to make sure I don’t get distracted by how great the music is and start dancing instead of writing…

Reference Lists

The third method I’ve been using lately is using references to inspire myself.

As I said before, writing descriptions and action scenes can be particularly difficult for me. So if I have to describe a forest, I’ll look up what a forest looks like (or sensory words that go well with the type of forest I’m trying to write). After that, I’ll pull up a note document, set a timer (so I don’t spend forever working on it), and write down every descriptive detail I can think of till the timer goes off.

Here’s a small list I made for a coniferous forest scene:

  • Lines of towering conifers as far as the eye can see with reddish-brown or rough gray bark. 
  • Fallen pine needles blanketing the forest floor, with the fresh scent of pine lingering in the air. 
  • Patches of light sneaking through the trees.
  • Crunching pinecones underfoot. 
  • Juvenile conifer saplings sprouting from the pine needle-coated ground. 
  • Swallows, chickadees, orange-chested robins, scarlet and grayish-pink cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, and blue jays, hopping from branch to branch or flying through the forest.
  • Deer, rabbit, or bobcat tracks running across the path. 
  • Bluebells, violets, and daffodils lining the path. 
  • Squirrels skittering across the path. 
  • Rocky/steep mountain path.
  • Fungi/mushrooms growing on logs/fallen pines.
  • Misty/foggy. 
  • Muddy and damp in a few places. 
  • Earthy smell of rain filling the air.

After I created the list, I chose the strongest details (or the details that made the most sense for the scene I was writing, and used them to write the scene.

And the best part is that I can save this list, add to it, and use it whenever I need to write another scene similar to this.

I’ve used this method for character descriptions/emotions, fight scenes, and anything else I’m having trouble with, and so far it’s working well enough that I wish I had started doing this a long time ago…

Eliminating The “Need” For Inspiration

Inspiration really is great, but I don’t ever want a lack of inspiration to keep me from writing. The more methods I can find and develop to eliminate my “need” for inspiration, the more successful I’ll be as a writer.

So I’ll definitely take inspiration when it’s there, but I’ll be making it whenever it’s not.

Before You Go…

Do you use any methods to inspire yourself?

I’d love to hear about them! Let me know down in the comments!

Looking for more? Check out my resource library for stories and writing prompts!

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