Today’s post is an excerpt from Ready, Set, Write: A Guide to Creative Writing. This excerpt is from a chapter titled “Writing While Inspired,” which explores the concept of cultivating creativity rather than waiting for inspiration to strike. Enjoy!
Sometimes, inspiration appears out of nowhere. You’re taking a walk, and you’re suddenly struck by the urge to write a poem. Or you’re driving the car when you get a fantastic idea for a short story. If you’re lucky, you’re in a position to actually explore these ideas when they strike—you’ve got a notebook in your pocket or an audio recorder on your phone that you can use to capture these bursts of creativity.
But most of the time, we’re not sitting around getting hit by the lightning rod of inspiration. We have to work at it.
There’s nothing quite like that feeling of being inspired. It’s a thrill, especially when you put pen to paper and something exciting happens—you produce a piece of work that you’re proud of.
But sometimes, no matter how inspired you feel while writing, you revisit your work a few days later only to discover that it’s not that great. Meanwhile, something you forced yourself to write when you weren’t feeling inspired turned out to be quite impressive.
Writers experience this all the time. That feeling of burning inspiration often makes us think that our words are on fire and our writing will shine like a fiery comet. But it’s often a misleading feeling.
Most of us get the best results when we work at writing and creativity. Ideally, we’ll set aside some time to write every day—even if it’s just a few minutes, and even if we don’t feel like doing it.
I’m not going to try to convince you that writing when you’re feeling uninspired is as exciting as writing when you’re aglow with inspiration. It’s less pleasant, more time consuming, and makes you feel like a struggling hack rather than the brilliant writer that you are.
However, you’ll probably find that once you start writing and get warmed up, inspiration starts to flow. Creativity is like water—sometimes we just need to turn on the faucet.
Make a date with creativity. Choose at least three times over the next week when you will sit down and do some creative writing. Write these appointments on your calendar, or set reminders on your phone. Commit to these dates that you’ve set with yourself. Give yourself twenty minutes to an hour for each creative writing session, and decide what you’ll work on in advance.
Before each session, rate how creative or inspired you’re feeling on a scale from one to five (one being not very inspired and five being fully inspired). At the end of each session, give your level of creativity another rating.
When the week is done, examine your three pieces of writing. Do you notice a difference in your writing when you’re feeling inspired compared to when you’re not feeling inspired? How did your creativity ratings at the beginning of each session compare to the ratings you gave yourself at the end of each session? Did inspiration start to flow once you’d been writing for a few minutes, or was the entire session a slog?