“I only write when I’m inspired, so I see to it that I’m inspired every morning at nine o’clock.” ~ Peter De Vries
When we talk to writers about inspiration, we usually want to know about their ideas. What sparks your stories? Where do your ideas come from? What made you think to use that setting or create that character? While it’s fun to discuss the sources of our ideas, I think it’s equally important for writers to talk about our motivation. The ideas are the easy part. Kindling for creativity falls across our paths daily, in the form of people and places and random thoughts. But while it’s easy to find inspiration, it’s much harder to stay inspired as we get to work. So how do we keep the flames burning when the initial spark dies away?
3 Ways to Stay Inspired
1: Record Your Motivations
Write down the reasons you started writing in the first place. Keep a running list of why you want to write and what you hope to accomplish with your stories. Maybe even have a journal where you can add any encouragements you receive in your writing journey. All the little moments where you felt excited about your writing, or when a reader said that your words made a difference to them.
When we write down why our work matters to us (and to others), we have a record we can refer back to on days when we don’t feel like writing. There will always be times when the words are hard to come by. We’ll have moments when we want to quit; days we don’t feel like real writers at all. In those moments when our fires are burning low, our written reminders can act as kindling to get the flames growing again.
2. Connect with Other Writers
Few things get me more excited about writing than hearing from other authors. Connecting with others in our craft gives us the opportunity to learn new skills, to receive feedback, or to simply know that we’re not alone in this journey. It’s a chance to feed our creativity through community.
It’s easier to stay inspired when we aren’t trying to take on the world alone. Having others supporting us and offering guidance can give us the strength to persevere when writing gets hard. Experienced writers can offer us new strategies to try when we’ve run out of ideas. Critique groups give us both feedback on our stories as well as accountability that forces us to write, even when we may not want to. Which leads to my third point . . .
3. Build a Routine
One suggestion almost every professional writer gives to new authors is to create a routine and stick to it. When we discipline ourselves to follow a writing schedule, we force ourselves to push through the moments when we feel like the words won’t come. We train our brains to write even when we don’t feel inspired to do so. As a result, we keep making progress.
There might be days where we only go through the motions of writing, and none of the words are any good. But at least by putting the words on the page, we keep up the habit. We make it easier to get started, because we already have the momentum. Sometimes the best way to stay inspired is to simply force ourselves to move forward. To steadily add logs to our fire and wait for them to catch.
And Finally, Breathe
Just like a fire needs a constant source of oxygen, so too, do we need deep breaths to keep us going. We need time to pause and take in life. To absorb and fill up before we can release anymore onto the page.
So when we hit ruts, and we’ve powered through them as much as we can for the day, it’s good to take breaks. Step outside and soak in the sunshine. Take a walk downtown and people watch. Try new things. Take risks. Get lost in the joy of living.
And when you find a thought worth exploring, explore it. Take it home, play with it, obsess over it until the spark becomes a flame.
Then sit down again and write.