Thursday, April 3, 2008

Keeping Inspired in an Uninspiring World

Inspiration is something I've learned to live without. When it's there, writing is effortless. Ideas and words come streaming out of me as though from another place; stories take fascinating turns and they always wind up being the right turns; things fall into place as if by magic. If I could stay inspired all the time, I would have dozens of books under my belt.

Unfortunately, inspiration is undependable. It comes and goes. And I've come to terms with the fact that if I want to be an author, sometimes it's going to be work. Writing without inspiration is why I need outlines, why I procrastinate, and why each word sometimes feels like it's being pulled out of me with tweezers. People who rely on inspiration alone never get off the ground. Still, it's nice to have it--it makes things so much easier. Here are a few things that work for me in finding inspiration.

Read books in your genre. Reading works in the genre I'm writing in never fails to get me excited to write. When I'm writing fantasy, I revisit some of my favorite fantasy authors from childhood--Robin McKinley, Tolkien, David Eddings, Neil Gaiman, and even a little Steven King for the scary bits. When I'm writing romance, I revisit my favorites from Judith McNaught, Joanna Lindsey, and Karen Marie Moning. If it's a book I've read before, it doesn't matter--seeing those old characters is like visiting old friends again, and they always inspire me.

Make a collage. Look around in magazines and papers for images that remind you of your mental picture of your story. A house that looks like your main character's; a living room or bedroom that reminds you of the place where your hero seduces your heroine; a scenic vista that reminds you of your setting; or pictures of people that remind you of your characters. Make a collage and hang it near where you usually write. Just looking at it will get you in the mood.

Make a mix. Go through your playlists and pick out music that reminds you of your story. Think about the soundtrack to a scene that stands out to you; the theme songs for certain characters; or the song you'd play in the credits if your book were made into a movie. Play this mix whenever you sit down to write, and you'll feel instantly transported.

For me, getting inspired isn't about taking walks or even writing in new and novel places. It's about keeping my imagination focused on the world I've created. The more clearly you can create it--in sound or pictures--the more real it will be to you when you sit down to create it in words.

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