Inspiration Vacation: Writing when you don’t feel like writing5 min read
Often we listen to that feeling in our brain telling us we should only write when inspired. Only write when there’s an idea we need to get down on paper (or pixel) before our brains explode with how insanely awesome it is. Inspiration makes writing fun.
But then there are times when, because of lack of inspiration, we end up not writing at all. Or there are challenges like Nanowrimo that we want to win, but where I’d argue that there’s no way you can keep up a momentum of inspired writing for 30 consecutive days. There will come a day when the thing most inspiring you is the idea of not writing.
Let’s start by saying it’s fine to take days off. Writers can have weekends too. Maybe a short hiatus is all you need to start to love your story again.
Or maybe you could take a different path with your story, follow a side character, throw in an unexpected element, see if sparks interest for you, even if it’s just for a day.
But realistically there comes a point in time when all you have is The Slog.
I’ve got good news and bad news for you here.
The bad news is that for all the times writing feels magical and inspired, there are just as many times when it’s like getting blood from a stone. (Sometimes you think getting blood from a stone might actually be easier and avoid writing by investigating this.)
But the good news is this: readers can’t tell the difference.
Those passages you wrote hyped on the events of your story (those gay dragon love triangles and spectacular baked bean revolutions) read just as well as those passages where you plodded indifferently through a conversation two of your characters had to have to get from point A to point B in the plot.
Yes, it’s a lot more fun to write when inspiration is flying out the wazoo, But if you only write when you feel like that then you may end up with one novel over a lifetime (if that).
If you write even when you don’t always want to, you can end up with a novel a year. Think of John Grisham, Agatha Christie or Isaac Asimov. Take a look at Barbara Cartland or Enid Blyton’s careers. These two ladies basically lived their writing lives in a perpetual state of Nanowrimo! Barbara Cartland wrote and published one book approximately every 40 days. You will never persuade me she spent each of those days excitedly jumping up and down at the thought of sitting at her desk all day. But all of these authors did have a lot of adventures.
Writing without inspiration is hard and takes persistence. And this is one of the great things about Nanowrimo. It isn’t just about the mad dash to throw words on a page as fast as you can. One great lesson I get each year out of Nano is that sitting down and writing each and every day (even when you feel like throwing your laptop out the window) gets you an adventure. That adventure inspires you to try again next year. And try a different adventure the year after. Another one the year after that. Nano advocates an adventure a year, and that’s a wonderful way to spend a writing life.
That’s how I inspire myself when the going gets tough each November. That, and cookies.
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