One of the challenges we face as writers is getting started. We don’t always feel like writing. The inspiration isn’t there.
When I was a new writer, I was in this state a lot. I didn’t feel inspired. Convinced that nothing great can come out of uninspired work, I refused to start.
That meant very little was getting written.
Which led to an identity crisis…
How can a writer not write?
Steeped in disappointment with myself, I reached out to a mentor.
She heard me out and asked, “Why do you insist on waiting for inspiration to come to you? Why not go out and get inspired?”
I was confused. What did her question mean? Inspiration is an abstract, unknowable entity, right? How can one find it, let alone, “get” it? And even if one could possess it, wouldn’t that be sacrilegious?
Thankfully, over the years, I have learnt what it means to “get” inspiration. And my mentor’s words have been the guiding light that brought me, many-a-times, out of the rabbit hole of procrastination.
Here are six things you can do to “get” inspired.
1. Read until the words comes bursting out of you.
A few months had passed after I came up with an idea for a non-fiction book. But I wasn’t writing yet.
So, I sent a writer and friend an email asking him how to know when to start writing.
He shared his process with me. He said that whenever he wanted to get started on a writing project he would read. He would find pieces of writing around the topic he’s exploring until his ideas and thoughts amassed, and the words come bursting out of him.
I tried it out myself, and I can vouch that it works because my book is completed and soon to published.
When we read, it’s not only what the author says that can inspire us, it could also be the way the author says it.
So, if you have an idea but you feel uninspired or don’t know where to start, read.
2. Hear other voices until your voice wants expression too.
What if you don’t know what to write yet? I find that it’s easy to get inspired when listening to others’ voices.
Watching a documentary, catching a podcast, taking a stroll down an art gallery or a park, and listening – eyes closed – to a saxophone could all be helpful.
Ginny shared that when watching a YouTube video on a topic she is passionate about, she felt like she wanted to share her story too. She knew it could help someone. So, she paused the video and wrote over two pages of her thoughts down.
One of my personal favourite ways to listen is to simply have a conversation with another person. Whether it’s an interview or a casual chat with a friend, I find that nothing gets my ideas going like hearing other people’s thoughts.
Listen to other people expressing themselves. It could help you find and use our voice.
3. Recognise the potential impact of your work.
For a long time, I used to think that my writing had to reach a great number of people for it to be effective. I would worry – even before I started writing – if my piece would ever reach that large an audience. Sometimes, that worry would keep me from writing.
But my point-of-view shifted when a few readers reach out to me saying that something I had written really helped them.
I realised that the numbers didn’t matter to me. If my writing benefits just one person, it’s effective.
That one person who reads your writing might have a new tool in their belt or a novel way of thinking because of you. They might feel better, relieved or more motivated after understanding your ideas. Your writing might be their inspiration. It could transform that person’s life for the better.
Thinking of how your contribution can help individuals might help you feel inspired to get your words written.
4. Remember that you grow as you write.
One thing that helps a person learn something is teaching it to someone else.
When we have to teach, we tend to make sure that we’ve understood the idea right. We might do some extra research around the topic. We might plan out how best to explain concepts to our students. We might practice.
But when we teach, it’s not only our students who benefit from it. Everything we’ve learned around the topic gets more ingrained in our minds too.
Through the process of teaching, we grow in our understanding, become better teachers, and learn to interact with ourselves and others.
Writing is a way in which we teach. As you write, you too will grow as a person, scholar and writer. Perhaps this inspire you to write? Join the club!
5. Set time in your calendar to write.
Sometimes, we know exactly what we need to write. We just don’t feel like writing it.
I used to think that not wanting to write was the same as not being inspired. I thought this way because I imagined inspiration as something that falls on me, fills me up and impels me to write.
That’s not the only way inspiration works, though…
I now think of inspiration as an appointment with a friend.
I put it in the calendar, show up when it’s time to meet and as I’m sitting with an open sheet, I find that inspiration joins me.
You don’t have to wait until inspiration catches you. You can choose to set time apart to write. When you do, chances are, you will find yourself inspired.
6. Tell yourself, “You just need to do it for 5 minutes.”
Some of us might know that if we sit down with the intention to write, the words will come. Yet we’re reluctant to do just that.
The problem here is not the absence of inspiration but the presence of inertia: We have trouble starting.
If that’s the case, here’s a tip that has helped me a LOT…
Get your notebook or document out and tell yourself, “I just have to do this for 5 minutes.”
Five minutes doesn’t feel like a big ask, right? But once you get started, you’ll probably keep going because the inertia has been overcome!
As writers, artists and entrepreneurs, we all want to create inspired, out-of-the-world work that takes our readers’ and listeners’ breaths away. And we suspect that writing or working when we’re not inspired might not lead to that kind of result. So, we might feel tempted to not write at all because writing uninspired feels like a waste of time.
But as creators, we also know that we have to create. We have to write, paint, dance, and teach. But how?
By going out and “getting” inspiration…
You’re a writer, my dear. Write!