As a writer, you have likely experienced various levels of intensity and pleasure in the process of working on your craft. There’s writing when you are just slopping words on paper. And there’s writing that is slow and laborious and painfully tedious.
But then there’s WRITING — head-spinning, mind-blowing writing.
The words flow from some supernatural place, and it feels like there is nothing between your mind and your fingers typing away at the keys. It is a totally delicious experience, and often it comes out of nowhere, as a completely unexpected — well, brain climax.
Some people call this inspiration or being in the flow. And like the aforementioned other activity, the rest of the world just disappears. When I feel it coming on, I just have to do something about it — right now. And I want to get the very most out of the experience.
There’s no point finishing dinner or the television program I’m watching, or continuing whatever I’m doing. I have to get to that computer and turn it on. In those inspired moments, the writing is so easy and natural, and it is completely absorbing. Like a lovely out-of-body experience.
Unfortunately, this state of writing bliss cannot be sustained for long.
Don’t you wish you could bottle whatever it is that stimulates the mind to open so beautifully and spontaneously? A mental door has been flung wide, and amazing ideas and words come spilling out, just begging to be arranged into a story or poem or article.
Neurons are ablaze, firing left and right. You can write and write, pouring forth words in great gushes, only to finish feeling completely spent. My, oh my.
“One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper patterns at the right moment.” ~Hart Crane
And just as spontaneously, that door will slam shut again, and your brain snaps closed like a mental chastity belt. Every sentence is a struggle. Ideas and words evade you like a coy mistress.
Have you ever spent hours with your fingers poised on your keypad, staring at the screen like it might tell you what to write? It is so frustrating. You might as well be under water or in a slow-motion movie. Where did all of those darling words and ideas run off to?
Sadly, if writers waited on the mistress of inspiration in order to write, we would produce work very sporadically.
And eat lots of beans and rice. We have to write whether we are in the mood or not. If you write for your career, then writing must be a daily act of self- discipline , even when it’s lackluster and boring.
Is it possible to put yourself in the mood for inspiration? Can you put on a slinky mental nightgown or pop a cerebral Viagra to prepare yourself to be in the flow? Yes, there are things you can do, and you don’t have to order them from the back of a magazine or get a prescription!
“The great advantage of being in a rut is that when one is in a rut, one knows exactly where one is.” — Arnold Bennett
If you have to produce something today, and your creativity has rebuffed you, here are some ideas to get the mental juices flowing:
- Set the stage. You know where you like to write. Clear all of the mess off the desk or table. Put it out of your sight. Be sure you aren’t hungry or thirsty, in pain, or otherwise distracted. If you can write to music, play music that sets the mood for your topic.
- Walk outside for a few minutes. Get a change of scenery and some fresh air to distract you from your mental sluggishness.
- Re-frame your thinking. When you aren’t in the mood to write, you begin to think you are a bad writer. Don’t focus on the end product or your lack of inspiration. Just have fun in the process. Write without constraints and clean up the messy parts later.
- Relax and detach for a few minutes. Close your eyes, breathe deeply and try to empty your mind. Meditate for ten or fifteen minutes if you have the time.
- Send your subconscious a message. While your eyes are closed, ask for inspiration. Invite the ideas to come forth and the words to flow.
- Visualize your reader. Think about the people who will be reading your words. What can you say that will inform, uplift, inspire, confound, or humor them? If inspiration doesn’t produce the words, use your intellect and refine later.
- Do a warm-up. Get your fingers and mind ready for writing by writing mindlessly. Answer some emails. Revise a previous article. Type favorite quotes or paragraphs from other writers. Ease your brain and muscles into readiness.
- Think poetically. Even if you aren’t writing a poem, think in the language and nuance of a poet. Make your words juicy and provocative.
- Do some reading or research. If you know the topic you are writing about, read from some books you have about the topic or search the Internet to get your mind wrapped around the topic and to get ideas pumping. Look for inspiration in the words of others.
- Take a lot of notes. As you are reading, write down everything that might be interesting or potentially pertinent to your topic. As you write enough notes, ideas will amazingly start to formulate into elements of your story or article.
- Create a list of interesting words. Find melodious and beautiful words to have handy at your desk while you are writing.
- Phone a friend. Call someone with some sense and creativity and talk through your topic and ideas with them. Ask for feedback. Draw from their energy and enthusiasm.
- Write an outline or bullet points. Begin putting something on paper. If you have enough material in your head, write a full outline. If not, write bullet points of concepts or ideas that you might want to expand upon.
- Set a time limit. Force yourself to write for 20 to 30 minutes without a break. Your writing might stink, but at least get the words flowing and some ideas formulated. Be disciplined even if you feel discouraged. Just keep working.
- Take short breaks. Get up and eat something. Walk outside again. Run in place. Listen to music. Do some activities to recalibrate your brain and provide some energy. You’ll come back refreshed and ready for more.
- Break your writing into chunks. If you know how long your piece has to be, break down the number of pages and how many pages you will write in an hour or an afternoon. Focus on the writing that doesn’t require a lot of brain power and work on that during your time frame.
- Make love to your words. Metaphorically of course. View your writing as your beloved. Treat each word and sentence tenderly, and caress the most beauty and meaning from every one. When you aren’t in the mood, give instead of take. View your writing as an act of love and a gift you are offering. Then you humanize the entire experience.
When inspiration walks through the door wearing its red, sexy dress and inviting you for a romp, jump on it as fast as you can. Enjoy the wild ride and create something spectacular!
But when she leaves you high and dry, don’t cry in your beer or view yourself as a rejected suitor. You can always return to that boy or girl next door, the one who has been true to you all along — the writer who sits down every day and just does the work of writing.
If you’d like to read more about how the spoken word can impact your writing and your life, read this article.