This is a post I don’t usually write. Usually, I’m a how-to nonfiction writer hoping to inspire you. But when it comes to fiction, I’m struggling.
Recently, I attended SCBWI Hawaii chapter’s 2016 conference with 2015 Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat and literary agent Suzie Townsend. It was as encouraging as it was discouraging. It made me want to write as much as it made me want to quit.
One of the other writers put it simply. With nonfiction there’s facts to lean on. When you’re grasping around in your imagination, there’s no bars, no walls. You’re free and freedom can be a nightmare when you have a type A personality.
“The hardest part of finding your voice is trusting your own instincts.” – Dan Santat
I believe everything hard is there to teach you something.
Growth doesn’t come from blissful days.
It just so happens that writing fiction is my next challenge. But the same old discomfort comes up. The fear. The resistance. The desire to do anything, but sit down and write. I used to feel like that about nonfiction. Nonfiction used to make my skin crawl. Because I thought it revealed my worth. It made me vulnerable. But it’s a sliver of who I am versus my fiction and essay writing. But I’m going to put it all out there because anything that stretches me further into my true self is worth the torture.
Here’s hoping today becomes the day I rolled up my sleeves and got serious.
Your muse. That nefarious, unpredictable, fickle elf (but don’t tell her that, I want to get on her good side!).
Many writers say you don’t need one. Just put fingers to keyboard and type.
Me? I need one. When I write when I’m fatigued, when I’m ill, when I’m uninspired, my work is kind of trashy. Ends up being deleted the next day. In my opinion, sick days are best for transcribing and editing.
But there are secret ways I’ve learned to ease the muse out. It’s the reason why I’ve been bubbling up with ideas lately. I can’t write them down fast enough. I thought I’d share the things I’ve learned with you. Things like…
1) Visiting a museum.
Museums are mecca for inspiration. Drown yourself in the artistic splendor of another and it’s difficult not to be inspired. They’ll quench even the most thirsty creative.
2) Lying down.
When you’re lying down and resting, your mind suddenly floods with ideas. Believe me. It’s happened every time I’m about to go to sleep. Keep a notebook nearby.
3) Taking a shower.
Maybe it’s the sound of the water or the fact that like the one above, your mind is suddenly excited that you’ve stopped playing with your smartphone long enough to listen to it.
Why is that the best ideas come when I’m swimming, on a treadmill or doing something else where I can’t jot down an idea with a pen and a notepad?
5) Pouring over books and magazines.
I’m notorious for this-I’ve got a stack of books and magazines piling up on my nightstand or spilling over my Kindle at any given time. And it’s not just on one topic. I’ve got non-fiction and fiction in there and everything from healing illness to taking care of kids because I know it only takes one idea to inspire another. And when you’re not paying attention, that’s when the muse is in.
But I might be alone in my thoughts. I just wrote an article for The Writer magazine with quotes from a handful of writers I admire on why inspiration may not be necessary to get writing. In fact, they list at least three reasons why you may be wasting your time if you’re waiting for inspiration to strike.
What do you think?
Does inspiration help your writing soar or is simply an excuse to procrastinate?