Inspiration sparks off the creative impulse which puts a writer in the zone.
Every creative person knows the creative impulse is as brief as a spark produced by striking two stones together—not a roaring fire you can draw from at will. If you want to use that spark, you must have the kindling together before the spark frizzles out.
There will be days when you’ll be watering the plants—or doing your laundry—and Eureka! You have the perfect idea for your next LinkedIn-post or the next chapter in your novel! But how often do you have such days? When the sun of creativity shines brilliantly upon you, does it make up for the unproductivity of the cloudy days? I know mine doesn’t.
Yet you wait for these rare sunshine days to practice your craft. In fact, you probably believe that waiting for inspiration to hit you—and riding on the euphoria it produces—is the best way to become a fantastic writer. I call it the ‘letting-it-come-to-you’ syndrome. It might come, but mostly it doesn’t.
This is how you do it; you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard. ~ Neil Gaiman Click To Tweet
Here are the things that you usually do instead of doing the things you ought.
Things You Usually Do:
Wait for inspiration to strike:
While you are waiting, you decide to watch a bit of Netflix, take a nap or lie down on a couch as if you were in a therapy session. You stare at the ceiling or an obnoxious painting your mother-in-law gifted.
Result: Distraction – 1, Productivity – 0.
From personal experience, I can say that the hours, days, or a couple of weeks go whooshing past before I produce a measly sentence. The guilt and frustration of that non-productivity hurts. When you continue to be unproductive, these pinches transform into the kicks and punches aimed at the fleshiest part of your anatomy. Your self-talk goes from, I am a writer and you can’t rush creativity! To Really?! Ten days of not a single word? Like, seriously? This line of self-talk builds into a crescendo when the deadlines are lurking just round the corner.
If you wait for inspiration to write you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter. ~Dan Poynter Click To Tweet
This guilt can be overwhelming. You really wish you had worked when you had the time. You even question if you have it in you to be a writer—let alone be a good writer.
The worst-case scenario:
You lose the few wispy straws of motivation to complete the story/novel/post. You do not know what to write next. Your brain seems to have frozen. Your creative world seems in the grip of a permanent ice-age. You wonder if you’ve turned into a fossil yet. This is not the rabbit-hole you want to go into.
Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have “essential” and “long overdue” meetings on those days. The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance. I must therefore guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg.
~ J.K. Rowling
Things You Could Be Doing Instead:
Inspiration is fickle:
Understand that the days when inspiration hits you and a gorgeous idea falls into your lap are going to be far and few between now and the deadline. Ergo, do not rely on them. Instead, train your mind through routines. Getting into routines sounds boring. Gathering kindling was never exactly fun. But it is effective. And yes, let us not misguide you. It is dull and unromantic. Hence, a tad bit difficult.
Making writing a habit is like resetting your body clock. Just as there are specific times when you feel hungry or sleepy, so will you feel writer-like at certain times once you train yourself that way. It is one of the best ways to conquer that writer’s block.
Let Your Subconscious Take Over:
Writing is often like meditation (except you don’t feel sleepy) where you need to focus and stop your mind from racing in a thousand different directions. You can’t keep thinking of the parties you are missing or the errands you forgot when you want to write!
The source of your inspiration is your subconscious mind. As all of us woke people know, the subconscious goes into hibernation when it finds that the conscious mind has taken over the mental and creative space. To get the subconscious to shine, you need to get your conscious mind busy with routine so you can establish a mental silence. That’s when the subconscious will wake up and take you to your writing zone.
Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way. ~ Ray Bradbury Click To Tweet
You can start small. Tell yourself that you will write—anything that comes into your head—for twenty minutes. Set a timer and write furiously for twenty minutes. Don’t bother about it being coherent or making sense. Just write! That’s what writers do, they write!
Gradually delay your timer until you find the right time slice that suits you. You need to have the determination and stubbornness to not leave your desk without writing for that specific amount of time or that specific number of words that you need to churn out to meet your day’s deadline.
One tactic I recommended for combating writer’s block is to exercise or do some chores. The key is to pick something that doesn’t suck you into itself. Don’t lose yourself to the break activity. You don’t want to go to bed realizing that you did the laundry, the dishes, the walking with the dog—but no writing! Maintain a balance. You can set a timer for your breaks too. For every hour you spend writing, take a ten-minute break. As it is, all fitness gurus now recommend walking/standing for five minutes after every half an hour of sitting down. You might as well feel a little virtuous about while you’re about it. A bit of feel-good never hurt anyone, did it?
A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit. ~ Richard Bach Click To Tweet
Create a conducive environment for writing:
Tidy up your workspace, select a song or playlist—something that can become your white noise and help you focus. Again, maintain balance here too. If you start tidying up your desk, don’t spend half a day deep cleaning the desk, the bookshelf and the entire room (something I struggle with). When compiling a playlist, don’t sit searching for songs for eternity. It is supposed to become a background hum not a vital part of your annual fun road trip, so chill!
Learn to adapt to your environment:
Basically, stop waiting for things to be perfect around you. Though you may like peace when writing, you can’t expect everyone to freeze or stop existing in order to give you the perfect pin-drop silence to let your creative juices flow. Learn to tune out distraction and write. You might think that is an unlearnable skill, but that’s not true.
Do you suffer from the ‘letting-it-come-to-you’ syndrome too? How do you cope when you slip into the comfort zone of waiting and procrastinating? Let us know in the comments below!