Those of us who don’t work in a creative environment think it must be very hard for those ‘arty types’.
All that sitting around waiting for the inspiration to hit them.
Artists, musicians, writers… What do they do all day while waiting for the lightning bolt idea to strike?!
In fact, any designer, actor or author will tell you that waiting for the ‘sunbeam through the clouds – ta da!’ is total nonsense.
You have to practice your craft ALL the time. Even when you have no ideas. You keep going.
What makes you a writer, is your writing. Every day.
Many best-selling authors say they treat their writing like a full-time job. Every morning at 9am they sit down at their desk and write. They only break for coffee and lunch. Then 5pm comes and it’s time to clock-off for the day.
Of course they don’t have amazing ideas and inspiration all the time. Some of what they write gets scrapped when they read over it the next day. But the way to keep going and keep improving is to keep writing.
‘But you can’t force creativity!” I hear you cry.
No you can’t, but you can force yourself to get something down on the page. Often the act of just getting started is enough to get you out of the blocks. The hardest thing for any writer or artist to be faced with is a blank white page! Put something on the page and it’s less intimidating.
Writing creates momentum – getting the plane off the ground uses up the most fuel. Once it’s in flight, the pilot just uses the lightest touch of his or her fingertips to change the direction of the plane. There’s hardly any effort required once the plane’s in flight compared to getting started.
The same is true for your writing. It’s OK for not everything you write to end up as part of the finished piece. You have to practice your technique and accept you may not know the final destination yet, but that doesn’t make what you write less worthwhile.
And stop second-guessing yourself, and talking yourself out of it. You don’t second-guess yourself when you clean your teeth each morning. You don’t even think about it. Treat your writing in the same way, just do it, don’t think too much about it.
If you’re finding your inspiration’s gone AWOL, here are 7 ways to get over the hump:
- Try doing something else creative and productive
Go for a run, bake a cake, make up a song with your kids. Take the pressure off your brain and you’ll soon find the ideas come flooding back. Just keep your pen and notebook close to hand!
- Reward yourself for sticking to your writing schedule
Commit to writing at your desk from 9am to 12pm, for the whole week. Just write, don’t worry too much about punctuation and capitalisation etc. You can always finalise this when you come to edit. Don’t stop now, as it will stop your flow.
If you succeed, reward yourself with a cup of coffee and a pastry. Or a new lipstick. Or see a new movie. If you get into the pattern and flow of regular writing, it’s much easier to keep the routine going.
- Set deadlines and stick to them
Deadlines give you a fixed point to work towards, and when you meet them, you have the sense of achievement to spur you on.
Break your deadlines down into smallish chunks: finish the chapter by ‘x’ date. Proof read chapters 1 to 5 by ‘x’ date. Or, make a commitment to someone else, like your partner or writer friend, to have work ready for their review by a certain date. Sometimes we’re more accountable when it’s other people we’re letting down, rather than ourselves.
- Not new, just improved
If you can’t write something new, improve what you already have. Keep editing and refining your story and characters. Find another way to write the dialogue that seems more true to life. Imply another side to your protagonist’s personality that your reader hasn’t picked up on previously. Just don’t completely walk away from your manuscript.
- Be honest with yourself about what you want
How badly do you want to to be a successful writer? If you want it badly enough, there are no shortcuts. You have to put in the work, and nothing worthwhile comes easy. As Ronnie Coleman said ‘everyone want to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift no heavy-ass weights’.
- Don’t compare yourself to other (famous) writers
Stop trying to create a novel worthy of Stephen King. He’s the finished product. You’re not – yet. Instead of comparing, use him as a motivator: Stephen King’s books are the work of years and years perfecting his craft. He’s published 54 novels and written around 200 short stories. You may not be as successful as him yet, but one day you might be.
- Give it time
Recognise that time will take care of things. If you write only one page a day, in a year you’ll have a whole book. Be casual about the end product, but don’t go easy on doing the work. You must keep turning up every day, but in the end, time will take care of the end result.
What tips do you have to keep writing even on those days you’re lacking the inspiration to write? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
We’re Peter and Caroline O’Connor. Creating beautiful book cover designs for authors all over the world is our passion. Every author should be able to benefit from a beautiful book cover design (not just the lucky few who get signed by a big publisher). We design, podcast, and coach authors full-time so we understand your struggles. Currently accepting new clients.