There’s this thing in writing. You know it. That burst of inspiration. That dizzy can’t-eat-can’t-sleep love for a new story idea. That feverish hunching over your keyboard to get all the thoughts down as swiftly as possible, before they go the way of so many 1AM ideas.
You probably know that feeling.
And then the feeling that comes when you’re a few chapters in and struggling to find the courage to sit down at the computer (or get off Twitter) because this writing thing is hard and why did you want to write this story, anyway? It’s just not going well. You’re not inspired anymore. Maybe you took a wrong turn somewhere and you’re going to have to start over and OMC.
Maybe you’ve never felt the anti-inspiredness to that degree. I hope you haven’t. I hope to commas. But if you have felt it, you’re not alone. Do not despair.
You know that saying about genius/creativity/whatever being 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration? Well, it’s true. You can’t rely on inspiration to get you through five rewrites for plot and characters, another thirteen revisions to fix all the details and bring out your themes, and then another four drafts to do line edits and polish that prose. As much as I love my stories, I definitely run out of inspiration and have that . . . Ugh. AGAIN? Ugh. feeling when it’s time to flip back to the beginning and read it one (or twelve) more time(s).
But, though nothing really compares to that first rush of storylove, there are some things you can do to stay inspired, at least while you’re working through your first and second drafts. (Personally, while I love revising and making things better — and that’s inspiration enough for me — it doesn’t seem to require the same kind of feverish storylove.)
Your imagination is one of your most valuable writing tools. Exercise it! Stretch it!
I know you’re busy, but take some time to daydream about your world, your characters, and the next scene you want to write. Play the next few scenes in your head at night. Imagine dialogue. Internalize the emotions. Replay the next parts of your story in a few different ways, refining it until it fits just right.
When you sit down to write, you don’t have to wonder what happens. You already know the events and how your characters feel and react. You’ve already experienced this part of the story, and you have only (haha) to translate it into words.
And don’t stop there. Why not daydream about something in your world or in your characters’ lives that doesn’t make it into the story? Just because it’s not in the story doesn’t mean it’s not a valuable thing to know about. The more you know about your character and world, the stronger foundation you have when you write them. Maybe you only mention something in passing — or never at all — but knowing extra details gives your characters and world a depth readers can feel spilling off the edges of the pages.
While I don’t recommend Wikipedia as your primary research source, I do recommend it for getting inspired.
Has this ever happened to you? You open Wikipedia to check something, see a related article and take a peek, then see another related article, then see another related article . . . and pretty soon you don’t even remember what you were looking up originally, but you’ve discovered some fascinating ideas in the meantime.
Researching can inspire new directions of thought and deeper authenticity to your world or characters. If your character is a chiropractor, research chiropractic stuff. Interview a chiropractor! You can show your character’s job coloring their life by their observations, like noticing whether a person slouched and would have a bad back in the future, or if they had some kind of neck pain…Same thing for worldbuilding. If you’ve got a planet orbiting two suns (a real thing!), do some research on how the orbit would look and when the suns would rise and set. Give your world a sense of authenticity by adding in important details. (And maybe even details about how the characters in your world view having two suns? Or deal with extended daylight re: farming, sleeping, secret in-the-middle-of-the-night spy stuff.)
I think I went a little overboard with the examples there — sorry — but the idea of using research to inform characters and worldbuilding really excites me.
Enthusiasm is contagious. While I know there are people who can’t talk about their work-in-progress until they have a draft or two completed, there are just as many people who get a thrill from discussing their latest project with their friends and crit partners. They brainstorm plot solutions, worldbuildling details, or character arcs — or just share some of the main points of the story.
I recommend letting your friend know what you’re looking for in response before you start yammering about your story, that way no one gets hurt feelings, but I can’t begin to tell you the number of times friends have helped me untangle a plot point or worldbuilding problem, or steered me away from making a dumb mistake before I could ever make it. And when we’re all excited about something . . . well, remember about enthusiasm being contagious.
What are some of the ways you stay inspired?