Insisting on Inspiration

WaldenPondGood friend and colleague Diane Sherlock recently wrote about the importance of taking care of yourself as a writer. In my interest of covering the craft of fiction, this is a principle I often forget, one that I let slip sometimes, and, of course, feel guilty about perhaps more than I should. There’s a lot to be said about taking your writing seriously. And to do that, you must think of yourself as a writer. If you don’t value yourself as a writer, you will never be able to produce a product that adequately reflects your capability. Here’s some simple, but profound advice from Diane:

Your writing will do better if you the writer get enough sleep, some exercise, some snuggles or hugs, and time to daydream and ‘refill the well’ as Julia Cameron put it.

Her post got me thinking about how we can take care of ourselves as writers. What considerations must we take into account when defining ourselves as a writer, and treating ourselves as writers. Here’s a few ideas for you. If I’ve forgotten any, or if you have something you like to do to treat yourself as a writer, let me know—I love hearing about differing processes.

1. Define yourself as a writer: If you don’t think of yourself as a writer, no one else will either. Refuse to feel inferior simply because you’re unpublished. Publication does not make a writer. A writer is as much as identity as a profession. Do not think of your writing as a hobby. It is your job. It may not pay what you’d like, but as with all labors of love, if you’re doing it for the paycheck, you’re in it for the wrong reasons. Have some business cards made up with your information and the title “Writer.” Own it. Be it.

2. Manage your health: Not something you’d hear too often, but if you’re unhealthy, you won’t feel your best. Hard to write when you’re miserable. And, because writing is a fairly stationary act, several of us become rather sedentary. In the same way our prose must have motion and action, so must our bodies to be in the best health. I’m preaching more to myself than to you. I could do with a little more activity. Exercise opens the mind and can dramatically improve our writing. Suffering through writer’s block? Take a jog, then go back to the computer.

3. Keep your inspiration tank full: Art begets art. Find what inspires you and delve in to it. Is it reading? Beautiful HDR photos? Paintings or sculptures? Movies? Taxidermy? Museums? Nature hikes? Walking the streets of the city? Music? Whatever it is, continue to enjoy it, but do so deliberately. How does your appreciation of this art translate into words?

4. Live life deliberately: If you’re not a careful observer of the world around you, you will not be able to fully realize and flesh out a world of fiction. If you don’t dream with diligence, you cannot create the fictive dream. Experience life to it’s fullest, taking note of the emotions, of your physical senses. Always ask yourself, “How might I render this in my fiction? What words best paint this particular moment?”

5. Slow down: When did we start living at life speed? Take a moment to slow yourself down. If you don’t, how can you slow time in your fiction? And really, isn’t that what fiction seeks to do—show a complete image of a fraction of a second? There’s a time to run a race, and there’s a time to rest after. But there’s always a moment of stillness before the starting pistol sounds. Fiction lives, fiction breathes, in these moments. Latch on to them. Hold them in your heart only long enough to put them on paper.

Have I left anything out? How do you keep your inspiration tank full?

11 Comments on Insisting on Inspiration

  1. What I like to do is read something short even if its just half a paragraph of a very short story that I think has great details of what is happening in the story. When I do that, I actually notice when I start writing my stories, it helps me come up with my own description of things or people. My inspirations can sometimes come up with something that happened in real life that I think could be a good story. Especially humor. I always want to include humor in my stories because I love making people laugh. My brother and I goof around each other a lot and we do things that I think would be very funny for a story so I write it down.

    Its true on the part mentioned about getting enough sleep and plenty of exercise because you feel lazy and don’t really want to think through to what you are writing and make an effort to what you want to describe. I once went to bed very late and when I tried writing the next day, it didn’t sound as good and some parts could be confusing to people who would read it because I didn’t really put an effort to it.

  2. Aubrie Vasquez | October 18, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Reply

    Definitely, definitely words of the wise. I never know if the story is going too fast and missing description, or if it’s dragging along and just needs to be trimmed. There are many times where I don’t consider myself an author and try too hard, which ends up making what I wrote look like an essay of some sort. But it’s good to know I’m on the right track, that putting my story aside and observing the world around me through different eyes is the right things to do.

  3. Jonathan Calzada | October 18, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Reply

    I like to just read stories about so many different creatures and people and make a story to mash everything up. Say you get g.i. Joe and jurassic park in one story. Now that’s inspiration. I like to just obsereve the structure of stories and see what makes me a better writer. So far it’s working

  4. I think that is extremely good advise and I’m glad that most of the time I have the inspiration I need to make my writing what it is today. I feel that without my inspiration, my writing would be nothing. Aside from that, I couldn’t have said those words better myself Gansky

  5. This makes a lot of sense to me. If you don’t define yourself as a writer then why are you writing in the first place? Writers are people who write about different things so if you write anything at all you are a writer. And inspiration is always important. Without it then there is no want to write; there is no need to write. Good post. It has a good lesson to learn.

  6. Ahahaha. Taking care of my health. Right. I should get on that. But sometimes it’s pretty hard, especially if you’re like me and a lot of your inspiration hits you in the dead of night like a subway train. I don’t know how many times I’ve been having a fine time writing that spectacular battle scene in my head when I glance at the clock and realize the next day is right around the corner.
    When I need refill my “tank”, I step away from my story and go do something else. Maybe if I’m having a hard time trying to describe a character, I draw them and then go back and describe the drawing. Maybe if I really want to convey how cold that winter morning was, I should go out in the snow for a minute and let the real world touch me.
    Other fictional works like novels, comics, movies, and even role-playing games inspire me and often help me find that “missing link” in my writing. Sometimes what my work really needs is a healthy dose of Star Wars to help it along. And it gives my characters a nice break from all the slashing through hordes of hideous demons.

  7. Define yourself as a writer? OK, that is definitely my weakest point. I have never really thought of myself as a writer, just something I’ve did when bored (very bored), or forced. I guess I never defined myself as a writer because I never thought writing would ever be my calling. I never even took it into consideration when I can get inspired for a story or poem by the simplest as a bee buzzing around. It must be true when they say, “people walk around with their eyes hidden in the darkness until it’s too late”.

    • I don’t think of myself as a writer either. That and keeping inspired are what I feel I need to work on the most. When I get inspired it’s only for a few short minutes (thanks ADHD) before I move on with my thoughts.

  8. Defining myself as a writer is harder because i only tend to write stories when im bored or when i feel inspired. I sometimes gets inspired by my surroundings like what has happened in my life or someone elses life, the main things that inspire me are music and nature. Music mainly gives me inspiration because of the lyrics and the rhythmn of the music. Often i dont get inspired by anything at all.

  9. Kaitlin Perryman | October 27, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Reply

    This post inspired me a lot to actually think of myself as a writer. In my eyes I’ve never been good at it. Defining myself as a writer is something I definitely need to do. That’s why I wanted to take creative writing because I feel like writing is a way to express yourself. I’ve always wanted to be better at it and learn good writing techniques. These are all very important to write good which is maybe why my writing is not so good. I never really pay attention to any of these things or think about them while I’m writing. I will now though for sure. Thanks Mr.Gansky

  10. Diane Sherlock | November 9, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Reply

    Thanks, Aaron!

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