I told a writer friend of mine that I was on a tear this week, racing through the outline for my next book in record time, creating a fast and furious roadmap with enough twists and turns to make the average passenger carsick. She asked, “What’s your inspiration and can you give me some of that?” And I said, “I don’t know that I actually had any inspiration.” And she said, “Oh, like I always say, ‘the best inspiration is just sitting your ass in the chair.’”
Yeah, something like that.
The outlining process is by definition far different than the writing process. But I tend to throw that definition on its head. Because in creating my roadmap I often can’t resist the temptation to write complete pages of dialogue that come to mind, or settings that present themselves with rich detail, or sometimes a new character who simply can’t wait to introduce him/herself. So, this week, what began as a simple step-by-step plot plan became a 50-page mural. Along the way I became inspired. Sometimes you just have to have faith that when the inspiration isn’t there, it will come. Sometimes you just have to stare down the keyboard and the screen and think, what I have I got to lose? It’s not like I’m wasting paper. The only thing you have to lose is time and, frankly, time is overrated. Time doesn’t begrudge you. Your children might. Your spouse might. But they’ll get over it. Especially when the big bucks staring rolling in from your bestseller (give me a sec, I’m rolling on the floor laughing my ass off).
My point is don’t wait for inspiration. More often than not it comes during the act of writing rather than during the act of waiting to write. The more you write, the more you get hooked; the more you get hooked, the more you write. Because, let’s face it, if you can’t hook yourself, you likely won’t hook a reader. You have to hook yourself first, and that, itself, whenever it happens, however it happens, is a moment of inspiration. I know we like to find inspiration in more poetic places, like the sea or the mountains or sunsets and sunrises. We like to fancy ourselves eating, praying, loving our way to masterpieces. We yearn to bring our hands to hearts and feel the muse rising in our soul while perched atop a cliff in a shrouded rainforest. We yearn to be that monk. I get it. And I’m not dismissing any of that. I’ve been on that sacred cliff. It’s lovely. It’s life-changing. But still. It’s not realistic for all of us and it’s not realistic every damn day of the week. Besides, after a while, there’s a banality to watching the sun come up and go down, however beautiful.
A good day for me is a day when I don’t get up every fifteen minutes to go find a snack. I’m a sugar addict; not getting up constantly in search of more calories is a challenge for me. When I’m actually hungry for dinner, I know I’ve been productive. Most days I can’t even say specifically what inspired me to keep going. I just know I slipped into a zone and stayed there long enough to produce. Which is why it’s often difficult to pinpoint precisely when and how the inspiration kicked in. (That would require too much self-awareness even for me, part-time cliff-dwelling monk).
So, take it from my writer friend and me: Sit your ass in the chair. Don’t wait.
Full disclosure: I wrote this blog on a day when I didn’t feel like working on my book. But it was no less inspired.