Everyone has a story to tell, but not all of us as writers have something to write. We love it, and that’s why we do it. The first thing any new writer searching for writing advice hears from the veteran’s is don’t do it for the money. Writing won’t get you rich quick unless you’re JK Rowling or Stephen King, but even the titans of fiction had to write until their fingers ached. Everyone’s nearly quit. If you’ve never considered giving up, you probably haven’t worked hard enough or long enough. You love it, I love it, but sometimes the spark isn’t there, and I’m stuck looking for something to inspire me to write.
Experienced writers have their ways of overcoming the writer’s block or finding inspiration. Everyone swears by their methods. Mine always seem to work for me, but writers are as varied as people. If you haven’t developed your way of seeking out inspiration, that’s okay; it’ll come with time as a part of your journey. This is a list of what inspires me to write. My strategies may work for you, but first, you need to understand what causes my lack of motivation to write.
What Prevents Me From Writing?
No Time to Write
Everyone needs more time. No matter the extent of our productivity and the amount we feel we’re achieving, we never seem to finish. On a good day, I can write anything upwards of 5000 words, but on those days when I have a lot to do outside of writing, I might not write anything worth mentioning.
Most days I write something, someday it’s as simple as a sentence, sometimes I can squeeze 500 words from a minimal amount of time in front of my laptop. However, there are days when my word count reads zero. When these days pile up, I find myself in a rut, and when time becomes free, I find myself stuck, trying to remember how to start writing thousands of words.
Too Many Ideas
The problem with ideas is they strike at the worst times. The metaphorical lightbulb never lights up when I have nothing to write about, or time available to create or research. They hit on the tube after viewing the advert for the war memorial at the British Museum, and I think how great an article entitled poetry from the frontlines would be, but that would involve a considerable research effort, sifting through old archives and reading the poems from the war.
When I get home from a stressful day at work, reading may offer an escape, but I don’t want to search for it. I’ve got plenty of unread books on my shelf, and the internet is littered with distractions and wartime documentaries, few of which involve poetry from the front lines. Even if I start a more convenient idea pops into my head. The other day I started writing an article about the issues with social media in connection to art, that ironically led to the idea I’m writing right now.
Too Tired to Write
The only thing I want to do on a free day is write, but it’s the last thing I want to do most days. Sometimes, the shifts at work can run for 10-12 hours for 7-8 days. I have schedules and deadlines to meet, but the fun seeps quicker from the artform with low energy levels.
I wrote my Novel’s first draft within a month of starting, but I’ve edited and rewrote it many times now. The first draft seemed easy in comparison, but at the time it took up a lot of energy. I had submitted a few earlier drafts to literary agents, and the process of writing a synopsis or covering letter made me long for the days of rewriting and editing.
People who don’t understand the ways of a writer, often underestimate how difficult it can be, and how much of a personal investment crafting a creative piece of writing is. The hardest part of writing, made more difficult by tiredness, is putting the original words on a page. But editing is just as hard. So is trying to find a stranger to read it and critique fairly. However, for those who do it because we love it, the payoff is a piece that makes us proud. That’s why we do it. When we can’t write, it tears us up inside and starts the vicious cycle of writer’s block.
Every writer should understand that the first draft of anything sucks. It doesn’t matter who you are, or how long you’ve been writing for; your first draft will always suck. I didn’t learn this until I started writing my novel. Until then, I wrote my poetry in one sitting and left it until it was time to record or share it. When I look back at my earlier poetry, it reads terribly. However, after a few rewrites and an edit, sometimes a change as simple as replacing a word, the idea or emotion I was looking for begins to emerge.
Unfortunately, the mind plays tricks on us. When something inspires me to write, it can feel like I’m writing pages of beautiful prose that will make the sternest of characters collapse into a salted pool of anguish. Then, upon reflection, I notice small and unnoticeable errors that most readers will skip over with so much as a thought: the wrong word choice, a misplaced comma, or a terrible pun. Sometimes, I’ll write something that feels right, but once I’ve read it over with a clear mind, it feels like rubbish. But I wrote it. It must be worth something. It isn’t, but worse, this one-piece, to my mind, comes to represent my entire ability as a writer. I suck.
Talking to Myself
I love WordPress. It has a range of options and allows you to blog for free, or for those who want to own a domain name; it has design features as well as a whole host of different options such as SEO. WordPress allows you to build an attractive website. In fairness to other blog hosting sites, I haven’t tried them, but WordPress works for me.
The best part of using WordPress is the inbuilt audience it comes with by using tags and categories. The platform powers just over a third of the internet. Its reader section allows users to search for topics curated from tags and keywords that opens your content to a whole host of new users.
Why is this important? Well, it can take a while for your site to register in a google search. With a WordPress site, you can hold the rights to your domain name and still reach readers through the blog section. There’s nothing worse than crafting the perfect article, only to post it online and have no one to read it. No one enjoys talking to themselves. With WordPress, most of the world wide web is at your fingertips. That said, even WordPress can’t force users to read your content. That’s a buzz kill.
Can a Good Idea Inspire Me to Write?
Before I started writing this article, I found myself in a bit of a lull. I knew I had to write something to keep with scheduling, but I needed to write something to feel the rush writing gives me. My description of the craft makes me sound like an addict chasing a high, but it’s a conclusion I can’t deny. I am addicted. It’s not something I do, to just do, it’s a compulsion that eats away at me if I haven’t written anything new. The longer I go without writing, the deeper the depression sets.
Somewhere around the fifth draft of the novel I’m working on, I realised I might never finish trying to perfect every sentence. Every book I read, taught me something new and led to me rewriting my manuscript to implement every new technique. I might become an author who ends up unpublished with a well-edited book, or I’ll find a publisher who believes in my story but wants to change everything about my manuscript, but none of that changes my unhappiness with it, in its current state.
Once I’d realised, I could end up stuck rewriting a piece of work; I began thinking about other projects. I started thinking about different story ideas and developing plots and characters. I wrote another 26000 words of another manuscript out of a need to write something different. I fell in love with this new project. It was a chance to try something new, but as I began reading over the first draft snippet, I noticed the glaring errors. However, a realisation struck. New ideas can inspire me to write.
The Problem With Not Writing
Before I started writing the novel, when all I wanted to do was make words rhyme, I wrote poetry. I’d started out rapping, trying to imitate the idols I listened to as a teenager. However, once I started my book, I began looking at writing from a different perspective. I’d written things that hadn’t rhymed before, but I’d wrote poetry in rap form for so long, the style stuck.
As of writing, I post a single weekly poem, although I don’t write a new one every week. Instead, I edit my old poetry, using my modern knowledge and experience to try and make it a better piece. But back then, I penned a new poem daily, sometimes twice. When everything went well, keeping up with my proposed amount of writing seemed simple. However, it proved challenging at times, mostly for reasons listed above.
My mood began to change. I felt unproductive and found it difficult to explain how I felt. The best comparison would be withdrawal. I used to smoke and had tried quitting many times, but the cravings were so intense, I found myself in a corner shop buying a pack of cigarettes and bartering with myself, promising myself I’d only smoke one. But I wanted to write; I didn’t want to smoke.
I was on my way to work and full of self-pity. I remember texting a friend and confiding in her about the uselessness I felt before boarding the tube. I spent the entire journey staring at my phone and the blank notes page. Nothing. No words made themselves present. No idea filtrated. All I thought about was the space. What could I write to fill the space? I exited the tube at Leicester square, feeling dejected.
On the escalator, the feeling erupted, and I broke from my chains. I wrote something. The first thing I’d written in nearly two weeks. A short piece, but I erupted with joy. I couldn’t contain my smile. I didn’t want to go to work, who does? But that couldn’t stop the flood. I started writing something else, but the original poem survives. I’ve posted it. All it takes is one idea, one moment to unleash the momentum you thought you’d lost. One five-line verse later, regular writing habits resumed.
So, Where Do I Find Inspiration to Write?
Writing to Music
I write music, maybe that’s why hearing a new song sparks something that makes me want to write. When I wrote poetry a lot, I listened to country music, and when songs connected with me, I used the inspiration to help me write. Rock and Pop also motivate me, but sometimes they wake me up or lift my mood. I built a playlist full of songs that inspire me to write when I first started writing my novel’s first draft.
This playlist, despite my heavy lean towards Hip-Hop music, features no songs from the genre. However, that isn’t to say rap songs don’t inspire me, they do. It’s just the songs curated for this playlist share themes and familiarity with my story. Most of my novel and articles featured on this blog, I wrote while Hip-Hop blared in the background.
Exercise to Write
I used to cycle a lot but slowly replaced cycling with walking. Exercise solves everything. I never understood why society taught men that real men don’t run, they stand and fight, because running, or cycling, swimming, or any activity can make everything feel that little bit better.
Feel tired? Run. Feeling down? Run. Feeling stressed? Run. Want to cry? Run. Want a cigarette? Run. Can’t write? Cycle. Cycle while listening to music and don’t stop until you can’t cycle anymore or an idea comes through the speaker and stops you beneath the trees in a distant place, and you lose track of time writing that idea that was always there but hadn’t formed in your anxiety-ridden consciousness.
Or is that just me?
Reading and Writing
The idea that writers should read has almost become a cliché. As of writing, I’m reading Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, and I’m struggling to finish it. Not because it’s a bad book, but the opposite. It’s fantastic. Not as good as his first book, Sapiens, but brilliant nonetheless. The problem is the way it’s written, makes me want to write. It reads like a well-constructed blog post, with articles all linked together like newspaper clippings that diverge and regroup to tell a story.
When I felt like giving up on my story, I read books that made me want to write again. A Child in Time by Ian McEwan was so well written and different from my manuscript that it made me want to give up the writing process. There’s no way I could ever be as a good as the grandmaster himself. However, some books are so well-written they make me want to read the book and write my own at the same time. I’m thinking of White Teeth, by Zadie Smith.
White Teeth is an excellent book with excellent dialogue and funny moments that lead to an excellent philosophical question about life. Even though I read it a few years ago, and struggle to remember everything that I found great about the plot or narrative, I’ll never forget the feeling of awe I felt towards Smiths writing. Reading her work made me want to read and write, more than anything else. She’s a genius.
Talking with People That Inspire Me To Write
I’m fortunate to have a few close friends that inspire me to write. Whether it’s a chat about the future, the past or something random and unrelated to anything any of us would like to create, a simple conversation with a beer, can inspire me to write.
One of the first mistakes I made when I started my novel was withdrawing myself from social life. I’d grown tired of drinking my nights away and was eager to finish my first draft. Two years later, I’m still writing another draft, but I’ve made it a mission to enjoy more time with the friends who have stuck by me and my reclusiveness. Plus, these friends offer tonnes of fantastic memories that would make a great subplot one day.
Remembering Why I Write
The key takeaway, I may not have all the answers or information I need, but I’ll get by remembering how awesome I am. I’m kidding, I believe in myself, but I know there’s a long way to go before I can consider myself one of the finest writers of a generation. But that’s not why I write. I do it because I enjoy it. I’m passionate about it. It’s difficult at times, but when I’m stuck without something to write, I remember why I started. For love. Then something usually inspires me to write.