You might be familiar with this scenario: you’ve got some time on your hands to work on your creative project or start a new one, but you feel underwhelmed at the idea of sitting down and doing the work.
(Full disclosure: that’s what happened to me when I thought about working on this post.)
I generally subscribe to the idea that you shouldn’t write (or paint or photograph or whatever your creative outlet is) only when inspiration strikes.
That’s not how projects get done; it’s how projects stall out, because waiting for the fickle feeling of inspiration to strike is like waiting for a 65 degree day in New England in the winter. It’s not unheard of, but you might wait a looooong time for it to show up suddenly and without warning, only for it to be gone just as quickly.
But on the other hand, sometimes you really do need to feel inspired in order to start writing. It can mean the difference between writing something you can later revise, and writing nothing at all.
I know I’m not alone in this writing duality – some days feel like you’re channeling a higher power as you type. You feel like you couldn’t be more of a creative genius, period. Everything flows, and the words are nearly perfect straight from your brain.
Other days feel like wading through muck just to get one decent sentence out. You’re not sure why you’re even bothering in the first place – you’ll probably scrap the entire page you’re working on when you read it again tomorrow and realize how shitty it is.
On those days, the really mucky days, it can help to feel even the smallest spark of inspiration.
The trick is to not rely on it to get your work done. But, if you have a solid writing routine established, dipping into the inspiration well once in a while is harmless.
For me, the trick to conjuring some inspiration when I need it is to change things up. The easiest way to do this: write in a different place. Literally. Take your notebook or laptop and sit somewhere different.
I’m writing this from my dining room table where I rarely ever sit to write. I just needed to switch things up so I could get this post written. It worked.
But you could also go to a different library or coffee shop than you usual one. You could venture into a new town in search of a great place to hunker down for a few hours. Or it could be as simple as sitting in a different spot in your house or apartment.
It’s a small, easy action that can sometimes be enough to get things flowing again.
Another easy way to find inspiration when you don’t feel inspired: give yourself 20 minutes (who are we kidding — give yourself an hour) on Pinterest to search for terms that relate to your story. But ONLY let yourself search for things that are relevant. You can look for gallery wall ideas for your living room later.
So, here’s some context. The first third-ish of my novel is set in Bermuda in 1951. Guess who knew next to nothing about Bermuda in 1951 when she started out? This girl. Guess who used Pinterest to visually inspire her as she wrote and researched and figured it out? You guessed it.
If you’re a really visual person like me, you simply cannot underestimate the power of Pinterest to fuel inspiration.
But that’s not the only way to feel inspired. Try reading something outside of your comfort zone.
Talk to someone face to face about what they’re working on (this never fails to fire me up).
Have a cup of strong coffee. Wait for it to kick in. Write everything that comes to mind. Don’t censor.
Visit a local museum. Talk to the docent. Ask questions.
Plan a mini-trip to a literary spot near you. There’s nothing like being in Edith Wharton’s bedroom and hearing about her writing process to get you excited to write.
Or standing next to Melville’s desk where he feverishly wrote Moby Dick.
If you normally write by hand, try typing for a while. Or vice versa.
Take a class. Learn how to do something else with your hands: pottery, calligraphy, watercolor painting, photography with film, knitting, cross-stitching.
Look at houses on Zillow and imagine who might live there. Imagine what you would do if you lived there.
Buy a new notebook. (I just got one of these a couple of weeks ago and it’s pretty sweet.)
Get some new pens. Or write with colored pens for a change. Write with markers. Write with crayons. Write on your walls. (Maybe. Maybe not.)
Watch a movie that’s really, really good.
Reread your favorite book. Make note of your favorite passages.
Take one of those passages and transcribe it by hand into a notebook.
Talk to other writers about being blocked. Find out what they do to get past it.
Go to a bookstore. What’s more inspiring than that? Buy two books: one that you’ve been dying to read, and one you’ve never heard of.
Write a letter to a friend. Put it in the mail and write another one if you’re still not inspired.
Take a nap. Write about your dreams.
Remember you’re not the only writer to ever feel uninspired to write. It’s ok. It’ll pass. It won’t kill you.
I could keep going with this list, but I think you get the point: there’s no secret to finding inspiration when you feel uninspired. The trick is to think differently than you normally do.
Novelty is inspiring. Let yourself indulge in novelty when you need it. But don’t make your writing reliant on feeling inspired: make your writing reliant on the habit of writing.
Learn to write even when you aren’t feeling it. Do it anyway. Seek out inspiration if you have to, but otherwise, trust the power of you and the page and your commitment to showing up no matter what.
What do you think? Is it important to feel inspired when you write? Or can you write without it? Share below!