Hello, Loyal Readers!
Last night Julie and I attended 10×10 2014 at the Art Museum of South Texas—an event which asks ten artists to present something answering, “What Inspires You?” It was a great event with a lot of cool talent, but I noticed some things in common between what they said and what I’ve been reading.
Lately Everybody’s been talking about NaNoWriMo, and I’ve seen a lot of posts with topics like, “Getting it Right the First Time,” “Nailing It,” and “Here’s How You Structure Your Novel.” While these posts are helpful to some, I feel they take some of the fun of NaNoWriMo away. NaNoWriMo isn’t about getting it right the first time; believe me, I’ve tried this approach and what it gets you is stressed out, coupled with a manuscript you can’t stand the sight of because it brings out memories of sleepless nights and dissatisfaction with your work (I still haven’t gone back to edit UHA II, my stinker of a story from 2008).
Anyway, I have yet to see posts tackling the other side of NaNoWriMo, the creative side. So I’ve decided to put together a short list of things that can help you get some ideas or when the going gets tough.
There is No Writers’ Block.
You’ve heard this one before, but it can be hard to accept. Writing can be tough and frustrating—you may even NOT write for a long time—but Writers’ Block is not a thing that happens. If you are a writer, you write. That’s really all there is to it. If you don’t feel you have anything to write about, write about that!
This is a tough truth to handle, but it will ultimately make you a better writer. When you accept that there’s no outside force stopping you from doing the thing you love, you gain empowerment to continue doing what you love. And this one leads to my next point—
Inspiration Doesn’t Come To You; You Have to Hunt It Down
Another tough truth to stomach. “But Ensis,” I hear you cry, “Inspiration has come to me lots of times!”
I’m sure you’ve found inspiration where you least expected it, but that doesn’t mean it CAME to you. Ever run into an acquaintance at the supermarket? You weren’t looking for each other, but you ran into each other anyway. Now imagine if you WERE looking for that friend. Think how many times you’d see them—you could follow them back to their home, peek in the windows, try to get yourself invited in for dinner. If it sounds creepy, remember, it’s a metaphor for Inspiration.
You need to become inspiration’s stalker. If you wait for that flighty muse to cross your path you’ll wait forever, but if you start to pick up clues and chase after it, you’ll be lurking in its bushes, breathing heavily as you watch through the window able to find your inspiration when you need it. Again, this leads into my next point…
Get Outside Your Comfort Zone
Goofing Off is Essential for Inspiration.
“What?” you ask, filled with righteous indignation. Again, it’s true. Think of all those artists who have been interviewed about where they got their ideas. Usually, their stories are related to life experience. Hemingway was a soldier who went on to write about war and far away locations. C.S. Lewis discovered an unfamiliar religion and incorporated it into his Narnia books.
Each of these people got out into the world and DID something. Maybe not something fun, but it was something, and their experiences gave them ideas for something interesting. Nobody ever got any great ideas by staring at a blank word processor screen. Maybe you’ll overhear a tantalizing conversation, see a natural phenomenon you didn’t know existed, view something on the news which makes you feel passionate—the possibilities are endless as the universe itself.
Get Inside Your Head
Let’s talk a little about hypnosis—more specifically, a TRANCE, which is needed for hypnotic suggestion to work. Your body is a pretty cool machine—It’s capable of learning a pattern of movements and repeating them with barely any input from your higher brain—it’s like running on autopilot! Many times people enter trance-states and don’t even notice—mindless repetitive lifting, driving a familiar route, exercise, the list goes on. Ever spaced out while driving, then ‘awakened’ at your destination feeling as though no time had passed? You just had a trance, my friend.
Without getting too technical (because I’m no expert), a trance is an ‘altered state of consciousness.’ What does that mean? It means you’re awake, but you’re thinking differently. And while your mind wanders, it might stumble across things that are cool.
J.K. Rowling was on a boring, four hour train ride when she got the idea for Harry Potter. And you’ve at least heard of Jack Kerouac’s The Road, which he is known to have written while ON the road.
I got shovel-fulls of ideas by driving/riding in a pickup 8 hours a day doing road maintenance for the state. Doing something mindless stimulates and frees up your mind to explore itself—and you can WRITE the result!
This is probably the most important, truth. We’ve all been there—had that flash of vision containing our new masterpiece—3:00 AM between dreams, in the shower, or at a restaurant—and NOT had a pen. Or no paper. Or something.
“Okay,” you thought, “I’ll remember it!” and off you went begging utensils and stationery off random passerby. Then, when you’d finally gotten hold of a child’s sticky crayon and touched it to the used subway napkin–it was gone. Your idea spread its wings and fluttered away, leaving only a few downy feathers in your mind.
So be READY. Even if you’re just waiting for the bus. Even if you’re just on the toilet, be ready to accept the inspiration at all times.
Personally, I carry a spiral notebook, moleskine book, two sketchbooks, around twenty pens (in assorted colors), a good luck charm, and two markers at all times.
These are of course, just a few notes about how to get inspired, but I can say from personal experience they ring true. Of course, they aren’t the only way to get inspired.
And as for NaNoWriMo, the event founded upon taking risks, making mistakes, and getting messy, I say break the rules! Screw getting it right the first time! Get it wrong on purpose, just to have fun.
So, readers, what inspires you ?