Searching for Inspiration
By Elizabeth Chayne
Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth Chayne, All Rights Reserved
There are days when you sit
at your desk and can't seem to get any work done. A couple of hours go
by, and all you have to show for it is a blank screen or a few crumpled
sheets of notepaper.
The frustrating thing is
that these "dry" periods often come right before a deadline, just when
you need your writing skills the most; or right after a highly
productive day, when you start to think you might actually "make it" as
What could be the problem?
And what can you do to solve it?
The weather's great, your
friends have all gone to the seaside for a picnic, and you're stuck in
your room, trying to finish up that essay you need to hand in tomorrow.
Distractions come when your mind starts to wander from the task at hand.
Often, this is because you're bored with the work in front of you.
As a rule, when you are so
distracted that it's getting hard to concentrate on your work, you
should take a break. Write a few scenes instead of doing research. Plan
out characters instead of working on the plot. That way, you're still
getting work done, and not just sitting there getting distracted.
Needless to say, if your
distractions are of the physical variety (thirst, hunger, etc.), then
you should take a break and focus on dealing with the distraction first.
Lack of Ideas
Some days your muse abandons
you and you simply can't think of anything. This often happens because
of pressure from deadlines. The more you want yourself to think out a
brilliant plot, the less you will be able to think one up.
What to do? Take a shower.
While this may sound like
funny advice, it's actually been proven scientifically that taking
showers helps people to find inspiration. You may have already
discovered that a lot of good ideas come to you in the shower, but if
you haven't, there's no better time to try it out than now.
Natural Writing Cycle
Sometimes, after a
particularly productive day, you may find that you're "out of ideas."
This might be part of your natural writing cycle. Some people's muses
need time to recover from idea-producing, and thus, you may end up
thinking that you've lost the knack to write.
Assuming there isn't any
special hurry, it's better to stop and let your muse rest until it's
ready to write again. However, if you are facing a deadline or some
other form of pressure, then you can try reading over the work you've
done before and try to pick up from there.
It's always better to work
on outlines and general plot lines before you start on the actual story,
as you will still have something to refer to if you suddenly are hit
with writer's block. If you're the sort of person who has an easily
tired muse, you may want to rethink the concept of "writing whenever the
mood strikes you."
It's not usually a good idea
to ask for an extension on the deadline when you have an absent muse as
this will only cause your muse to be lulled into a false sense that
there is "plenty of time" for it to recover.
Write What You See
The next time you sit at
your desk, surrounded with wads of notepaper, try writing a story about
the objects you see. Write about someone looking for their muse, or a
story of genii living in wads of notepaper. A little humor usually helps
to wake up the sleeping muse.
And if the "searching for
inspiration" story starts twisting off onto another path (say science
fiction, Western, romance, etc.), then just go with the flow.
If you're lucky, and the
story turns out to the one you need to meet your deadline, then go ahead
and use it!
The truth is that it's hard
to be a writer. Other people may complain that it's hard to sit at their
desks and do the same thing over and over again, but it's definitely
much, much harder to sit at your desk and think up new plots,
characters, and twists every day.
Try not to be too hard on