Here’s the thing about creative writing:
When the inspiration ain’t there, it ain’t there.
I struggle with this weekly. I can conjure up 500-1,000 words about pest control, residential painting, or ADHD for my clients on any given day. That’s my job. Jobs are manageable. Jobs have deadlines. Jobs have expectations.
But when I want to sit down and write something creative — something from me — that’s a different story.
Or no story at all.
When the inspiration does not overfloweth, it’s so easy to avoid writing. I have to carve out time for creativity anyway, so if the creativity isn’t accessible, may as well fill that time with something else.
The thing is, I’m always worse for the wear when I let this excuse be the driving force in my carved-out time.
On multiple occasions, I’ve carved out the time, sat down, and promptly opened half a dozen other tabs to rob my focus.
But writing is my craft. My outlet. My passion. If I choose mindless scrolling over the thing that brings me joy, I hurt myself.
What is your craft? What do you love to do above all else?
Chances are, you probably don’t get enough time to do that thing. And chances are, you second-guess whether you even have the “right” to take time to do that thing.
Here is my formula for getting through the inspiration doldrums:
Claim Your Right
You have a right to do the thing you love. Whether it’s baking, repairing motorcycles, making cards, or playing ultimate Frisbee, you have the right to do it.
What makes you think you don’t have the right? For me, I have found that I can easily swipe away my passion if it doesn’t make money. That’s the devil sitting on my shoulder, telling me I don’t deserve to do something unless I’m pulling in some dollars for it. And the devil is wrong, of course. When I give space and time for my passion, I am a better person.
Because I work from home, I also can easily find 100 other things to fill my designated writing time. Chores, phone calls, research into swimming lessons… I feel like I never have time for these necessary things, and so I can easily convince myself that while these things are urgent and pressing, I don’t have the right to sit down for an hour or two in the middle of the day and write.
And when I’m behind on my paid work (which happens a lot), it’s so easy to fill my passion time with work (which happens a lot).
But that’s wrong. I’m a writer by trade, and I’m a writer by passion. If I only do the trade work, it will suffer due to my neglect of the passion.
Block out the Time
So you’ve claimed your right. Now you need to claim your time. This will vary from time to time in your life. When you have little kids, you may have to go for short jogs instead of several miles every day. Or you may need to find a way to bring the kids along. When your big kids are out of school for the summer, you may need to cut your writing blocks in half.
You may only be able to find one hour a month for your passion.
But whatever you do, though, block out the time.
I’ve gotten very serious about this lately, and it’s been hard. Because I’m at home, invitations and requests come up for various things. But I decline them almost every time because I’m finally serious about writing for myself. I ignore the phone, I don’t answer the door, and I say no to everything that comes my way.
It felt wrong at first. I’m home, after all. Right?
But if I don’t take my passions seriously, they will wither and die. Plus,one day, I do hope my creative writing will pay some bills and these middle-of-the-day hours will be financially profitable. For now, though, it’s a lot of unpaid practice. But remember — I have the right to that time. It makes me whole, I’m building skills, and I need to do it.
Just Do It
Inevitably, you’ll prepare to do your thing, and the inspiration will be missing. Your paint brush won’t know what to do in your hands, your fingers will have nothing to type on the screen, or the wood will not know how to form itself into any sort of piece of furniture. This happens. Inspiration temporarily dies. Creativity goes into hiding.
It’s just the process of doing it. Once your hands begin the process of doing the thing you love, your brain and your heart will catch up and add in the spice and drama.
I even do this when I’m working on something for a client. If the inspiration isn’t there, I make an outline and just get going. I type words about the subject, or I copy and paste words from other articles until something is on my screen.
Inevitably, the words start coming. And then I delete the nonsense words that began my process.
There’s something about just doing it that sets your mind into motion. In fact, I’m doing it right now for this post. Inspiration isn’t a-flowin’ at this moment, so I’m just writing. I will never publish this piece in the form it currently rests. I’ll go back and edit and edit until it works. Inspiration will be stronger then.
But if I write nothing, there will be nothing with which to work. So I write. And write.
Take a Shower
My best inspiration comes in the shower. I create new ideas for things to do with my kids while shampooing. I write entire essays in my head while steam gathers on the mirror. I practically figure out world peace every day because the shower is my inspiration place. If it isn’t yours, find your inspiration place. Nature works equally well for me too, and so does walking or jogging.
Read about your craft. Be inspired by other people. Don’t worry that your work isn’t as good as something someone else has shared. They aren’t sharing their sloppy firsts or their muddy middles. They didn’t start out with a perfect story, piano piece, or reconstructed motorcycle. They started with a bumbling idea and worked from there. Enjoy what they’ve done. Admire it without jealousy, read about their process, and let the inspiration come.
Be Creative in Other Ways
If knitting is your game, but nothing has been inspiring you lately, take a break and paint, garden, or jog. Be creative somehow. The creativity you put somewhere else will seep back into your favorite passion eventually.
When inspiration just won’t come, get out and do something for someone else. Helping others is good for the world. And it’s good for you. Something beautiful happens when you help others, and that beauty works its way back into your passions.
How do you find the inspiration when it’s hiding?