A Practiced Skill
As writers, I think we’re always looking for inspiration. Something that gives us that connection that just… feels right. It’s inexplicable in a way, and just a part of who we are as individuals, and as humans.
It can come from so many places:
A passing comment a stranger made.
The list is really infinite.
But I’ve found that sometimes, I was relying too much on inspiration finding ME. Instead, now I practice finding inspiration, as a skill.
And I truly believe it is.
Like anything else, it takes practice. It’s an art form in many ways. Pulling something from nothing, pulling something new from something old and giving it new life.
Finding inspiration is finding the beauty and hidden life in everything around us.
And like any other skill, I’ve found that actually PRACTICING being inspired is incredibly powerful and important. Below are a few ways I do that (the third is especially different!):
Whether it’s looking at a cloud until you really see the breath coming out of the dragon’s mouth, or staring off into a garden until you see the gnomes come to life and slam their door for privacy, it’s as simple as daydreaming, until it REALLY solidifies. We’ve all looked at clouds and thought… well, I mean, that COULD be a dog, or that SORT OF looks like a castle.
But look deeper. Let your mind wander and see what comes up. Be patient. The witch may be hiding behind the next light breeze.
There is something powerful about nature, the extra oxygen of being outside, the movement of being surrounded by the living. Use it! See what it brings you.
Finger paint with a child (or without one!). Try your hand at a Jackson Pollock style piece. Scribble a few designs on a piece of paper. Cook a meal with ingredients you’ve never tried before.
Again, give it time. Give yourself enough time to (1) stop feeling silly (2) relax into what you’re doing and then (3) let go and just DO.
As writers we create all the time. Characters, scenes, memories. But creating something tangible can feed the juices of our own inner inspiration.
Find NEW Inspiration in other Writing:
This one is my favorite. Pick up a picture book. Really examine it, the words, the pictures, the story. Now take one aspect of the book, and create a NEW story around it. Not a sequel. A completely new story. Allow yourself to be inspired in any way it happens. Maybe there is a color on page three that sparks a new PB about a rainy day. Maybe the character has a baby brother that you imagine dreaming up a whole world made of peanut butter cookies.
Maybe the character gets older and there is a mid grade novel or even YA hidden inside, or the setting from the PB becomes the world a YA character came from… or wants to get to.
I’m not saying write the story. I’m not even saying WRITE anything. Just sit with it for while. Let the thoughts come, and then let them go.
It’s can be a form of meditation.
Whatever way you practice looking for inspiration, remind yourself regularly that it’s all around you and that the more you access it, the easier it will become to find. Treating inspiration as a skill, something you learn, a muscle you stretch and flex, really puts it in perspective. And often, when you’re stuck, you’ll find yourself one step closer to pulling yourself out, and writing on!
And your manuscripts are worth it!
Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!
Look for Erika’s articles every other Wednesday on Writing and Illustrating. Thank you Erika for another great post.