Inspiration – Be ready for it!

INSPIRATION: Stimulus to do creative work; something that stimulates the human mind to creative thought or to the making of art. Encarta Dictionary

Things come along every day that inspire, that are great ideas for stories or novels or poems. But creativity needs more than inspiration. What do you need, as the definition says, to make the art? The first step you need to take is to be a working writer. And working writers do more than pound keyboards all day. When you’re out in the world are you open to new sights and sounds? Do you take a moment to look at the sunset or sunrise, or listen to the sounds of your neighborhood—radios, leaf blowers, dogs barking, airplanes, trucks, road construction, a motorcycle a few blocks away. Where else are you going to get the vivid details that will paint the picture that your inspiration suggests?

Do you listen to people? Not just to your own circle of friends and family, but to people on the bus or at work? What are their speech rhythms and patterns like? Do their voices go up at the end of sentences? Perhaps, they use a lot of technical jargon, or catch phrases like ‘you know’ or ‘it’s like’ or ‘so.’ Do they talk about their kids all the time or complain about the boss? All of these details make up the palette from which you create your word pictures—your stories and poems.

At a workshop I was a recently, I heard from a woman who had lots of story ideas. She shared some with us and they were wonderful. She was definitely inspired and had the tools to create wonderful pictures for her listeners. She was also a self-confessed procrastinator. What a shame. She wanted to be a writer so much but had never made her dream come true, because she kept putting it off.

Do you keep saying that you’ll write that story or novel ‘someday’? Make that someday now. Many NaNoWriMo writers have gone through the exercise of finding the time to write a novel in a month. Log your activities, hour by hour, for a week. Find out where you can take the time to get your writing done. Do you need to watch all those TV shows when they’re on? Can you record them and watch them some other time? Having a big chunk of time for writing is wonderful, but it can be very intimidating to fill with constructive work especially if you’re not used to it. Chipping away at a project a little at a time is a great solution and also helps you develop the habit of sitting at the keyboard, or somewhere with pencil and paper, and writing every day.

Make sure you keep reading, too. Immerse yourself in someone else’s writing. Read the words aloud to hear the rhythms and understand how the author keeps the action moving with sentence variety. Expand your vocabulary. Look up words the author uses that you don’t know. When you are writing your story and looking for just the right word, you’ll have it at your fingertips. Vary your reading so that you read in different genres and forms: mystery, sci-fi, literary, romance, poetry, adventure, short stories. When inspiration strikes, you can take your ideas and frame them in the form and style of writing that serves them best.

Lastly, write even when you’re not inspired. Athletes practice when it’s not race day and writers need to write even when there’s no deadline or no real inspiration. Writing “muscles” need to be kept in trim, too. Finding words and putting them together with depth of meaning and in a way that grabs a reader needs to be a daily habit not just an intermittent exercise that you take on when the mood strikes you. Keeping a daily journal is one way to strengthen those muscles and keep them flexed. Another is to play with words whenever you can. Take a page from the novel you are reading, point to three random words on a page, and see what you can make from them. Take a line from a song you like and use that to start a story or a poem. Describe what you see out of your window, or write from a different point of view, such as that of your baseball cap, or your backpack, or your running shoes, or your alarm clock.

Who knows? You may be inspired. And when you are, you’ll have all the tools you need to create your work of art. End

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