Pen to paper! Don't wait for inspiration.
The Craft of Writing,  The Writer's Life

Inspiration Ain’t Coming to Rescue You

When my high school kids used to tell me that they didn’t know what to write about, I would suggest that they just start writing whatever words came into their head. If they couldn’t think of words, they could write “blah” over and over on their paper until something formulated in their minds.

Has the blank page in front of you ever frozen your mind? You sit down to write,


On those days, especially on those days, you need to plod over to your writing desk or area and start writing words. Write about the weather. Write about what you did or didn’t do yesterday. Write the word “blah” over and over again until something usable comes up.

What do I do?

I usually begin my day with “Morning Pages” suggested by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. Sometimes I go on for pages. “Word vomit” one of my students called it, but that “word vomit” gets the gremlin distractions out of my mind and onto paper. My “Morning Pages” are usually written out long-hand in my The ONE, The EVERYTHING Notebook. I’ve tried the digital notebooks, but it just isn’t the same. Sometimes I barely get half a page written before my mind says, “Get to work. This idea running around up here needs a home.” At that point I end my page with “Let’s get started.”

Are there days where time to write beyond my “morning pages” is elusive?

You bet. The days where we are up at 5:00 AM and out the door by 6:00 AM so that we can get to the lab for Hubby’s blood draw by 7:00 AM is just one of thos days where I find that time to write is elusive. Sometimes I write my “morning pages” in the hospital cafeteria as we have breakfast between the blood draw and the clinical visit. By the time we get home, I am mentally exhausted from traffic and the clinic visit after the blood draw.

But, I don’t get down on myself or criticize myself. Instead, I pick up where I left off the next day.

Some weeks there are several days where time is elusive and even days where ideas and inspiration are elusive.

In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about ideas and inspiration. She writes that inspiration is like falling in love or hearing alarming news: you might tingle all over, you might feel chills run up your spine, or you might get a warm-all-over feeling. She writes that creativity is a form of enchantment and that ideas are energetic life-forms. As life-form, ideas come to people when the ideas think we are ready. The key is to always be ready.

How can you be ready for ideas and inspiration?

  1. Work at writing each and every single day. Whether you are writing “Morning Pages,” a letter to someone, a list, or working on a specific project, you need to be sitting down to write something every day.
  2. Start a project idea that has come to you. You might not know where it is headed, or you might not be inspired, but if you get started, that is half the battle.
  3. Write to a daily prompt. It is with daily writing prompts that I have found several story ideas. I write the prompt down on the paper and set a timer for 15 minutes. There have been times when the timer sounds that I wonder where the loose frame of a story on the page came from.
  4. Read and take notes. Whether you are a novel or short story, a newspaper or magazine article, or a nonfiction book, keep a pen and paper beside you and write down your thoughts and information as you read. Quotes, details, and what-ifs are good fodder for a story or a book.
  5. Watch the news and reality television. Did you know that the writers of Miss Saigon began playing with the story after seeing a picture and then utilized the concept of Madame Butterfly? A story on the news might spark an idea or create a series of what-ifs. Listening to people’s stories on reality shows like Shark Tank and Undercover Boss or shows that tell the stories of hauntings or allow people to air their dirty laundry on Court television can give you enough to write about for a lifetime.
image created by R. Kojetin with Canva

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