Tag Archives: inspiration

How Writing Feeds Your Inspiration

writing for inspiration

Ahhhh, inspiration. That moment when the rest of the world falls away and all that’s left is you and the perfect sequence of words, like the unveiling of a mystery, the solving of a puzzle, everything all of the sudden just fits.

While these moments exist, and thank goodness that they do, most professional writers will confirm that inspiration isn’t enough to finish a project or to carry an idea to its fruition. You have to also sit down and slog through some pretty ugly stuff when everything you write looks awkward and stupid and you’re considering becoming a waitress or a used car salesman because this artist thing is just too hard.

But sitting down and slogging through the mud is actually what opens you up to moments of inspiration. It’s creating the space for it to happen and working through it when it isn’t present that allows for inspiration’s sudden arrival. Kind of like a lightning beacon – by showing up, sitting down, scribbling out some words that may look like total nonsense, you’re basically holding up a metal rod in the middle of the storm, saying “Okay, come and hit me.”

Many novice writers carry the erroneous notion that in order to write, they must first be inspired. Researcher David Boice found that writers who write on a daily basis have creative thoughts twice as often as those who only write when they feel like writing. William Faulkner said of inspiration: “I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately, I’m inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.”

It’s true. The writing process is the road to inspiration. Take this quote from Joyce Carol Oates: “The first sentence can’t be written until the last sentence is written.” It might sound like a Zen koan. But it basically means you start out not knowing where you’re going or even where you are. By the time you get to the end, you can finally see the beginning. But without going through the steps to get to the end, you’ll never even see the beginning and the rest of the story will never unfold.

Louis L’Amour advises us to “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” Many writers describe the feeling they get when they’re writing as something transcendental. It has the ability to heal, to comfort, to transform and yes, to inspire. Catherine Drinker Bowen explains one of the great pleasures of writing, “For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word”.

Neil Gaiman explains the feeling of fulfillment that writing can bring when he says, “Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days, nothing else matters.” Anne Frank said, “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” Anais Nin defines the pleasure of writing: “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” And Joss Whedon tells us that “I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of.”

Joan Didion uses writing as an exploration of her own mind, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” Toni Morrison advises us to use writing as creative fulfillment when she says, “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

Some writers warn that writing comes with a huge price. Flannery O’Conner explains that, “Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.” And George Orwell admits that, “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one was not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” (via WritersDigest)

The demon, the muse or whatever it is that drives writers to write is also what makes it so painful when they don’t. Though writing does have a price, what about the price of not writing? Paulo Coelho poetically explains that, “Tears are words that need to be written.” (via Goodreads) Mitch Albom says, “Nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say,” and Maya Angelou warns, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Writing not only inspires better writing, but having the courage to write inspires you to live more freely and courageously.

Kurt Vonnegut tells us, “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” (via BuzzFeed) And Ray Bradbury begs us, “Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper” and “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. (via WritersDigest)

And Franz Kafka instructs us, “Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” (via Goodreads) And Natalie Goldberg wants us to be brutally honest with ourselves in the writing process, “Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.” (via BuzzFeed)

The writing process takes you out of the mundane and throws you into the creative realm. It’s there that lightning most often strikes. So if you want to be inspired, don’t wait, write.

7 Fabulous Ways to Improve Your Writing Style

While writing style is ultimately crafted through time and experience, this post focuses on the 7 most fabulous of fabulous ways you can improve your writing in a more focused and productive direction rather than through mountains of trial and error.

writing style

1. Create Your Writer’s Asset List

Regardless of how long you’ve been writing, from one day to one lifetime, sit down and compile a list of all your assets as a writer. The exercise is about providing perspective that oftentimes is lost to those who don’t approach these things systematically.

Here are some questions to get you started.

  • What kinds of essays/papers have you written before? Keep it simple, but do give yourself a visual representation of everything you’ve accomplished.
  • How fast are you?
  • What are your grammatical strengths?
  • What are the defining characteristics of your writing style presently?
  • What are you the best at writing?

2. Cut, Clip Shave and Destroy

It’s called “killing your darlings” and the practice is valuable beyond words. You start to see how much of your writing is fluff and filler. You begin to see how to write more directly, rather than being overly descriptive or beating around the bush because you’re unsure of yourself.

Write a paragraph about something, anything will do.

Then, go through it word by word and get rid of EVERYTHING that isn’t absolutely necessary to make the point and keep the sentences cohesive. Once you find the core, then you can sprinkle your own twists on things that reveal your style.

3. Take Any Focus off of Yourself

Are you writing for yourself? That’s like an educational speakers speaking to hear themselves talk. It doesn’t resonate well and sends many of the wrong signals. Who are you writing for? What’s the point? What’s the end-goal? Your writing style is expressed most naturally when you aren’t trying, right? Take the focus off yourself and put it elsewhere, thereby allowing your style free reign.

4. Regard the General Intonation of Your Writing

Rather than trying to look at style in a compartmentalized fashion, pay attention to the overall vibe or intonation of your writing. Remember, the vast majority of human communication is through intonation, or how we say things, not what we actually say. Most of the time when we talk about writing “style” we’re really referring to your intonation. Address is from that angle to streamline the process.

5. Study Writers

Try studying writers outside your comfort bubble. Keep in mind that these authors are processed goods. That paperback is the commercial literature equivalent to a Twinkie. They’ve been heavily edited and proofread by people that make insane amounts of money. Their personality is like iron.

Go for someone, anyone, above your age with TONS of personality. Want an example? Ok, try Russel Brand, or perhaps Matt Taibbi. You can’t expand style without new, foreign and alien input. Pay special attention to any genre that makes you uncomfortable, because there’s likely gold in there for you.

6. Actually Study the Science of Creativity

If you study the science of creativity you’ll see that you probably have far more of it than you might think. If your style seems stagnate, you need to sit down and take a look at how creativity really works. #5 touched on it, but you can take it much further than that.

Creativity comes from quasi-random “mutations” (if you will) when two really unrelated or oddly paired things meet. Put yourself and your mind in places you’re unfamiliar with on a constant basis and then absorb tiny bits of info. This will shape a truly fabulous writing style.

7. Make Rephrasing a State of Mind

Isn’t style the ability to take a dry sentence and turn it into something more engaging? Isn’t the ability to take a dry sentence and inject your own personality into it? With that being said you should make it a constant background practice for your mind to rephrase and reword things you read in passing or directly.

If you devour a post that blows your mind because of the style, then rewrite it in your own words. If you read an advertisement that impresses you, then rewrite it. The more you practice taking things and molding/shaping them in your own voice, the more your own style will reveal itself and evolve.

What about you? What writing tools are you willing to share? There are so many different takes on this subject, probably as many as there are students. Some tools and tips work better than other, so out with it! What are your top 3?