I saw a tweet the other day that said, “Best writing advice ever: only write when you’re inspired.” I stared at it for a second, shook my head and got back to work.
I’m just going to say it: if I only wrote when I was inspired, I’d never get anything written.
Only writing when you’re inspired is fine … if you don’t have a job, don’t have that many demands on your time, and can immediately get to a notebook or computer when you receive inspiration. However, I would think that for the majority of us out there, we have other demands on our time and can’t always stop what we’re doing to sit down and write. If you’re like me, you use sticky notes, napkins, your palm … whatever is on hand to write down your idea or “inspiration.” Then you go back to whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing.
The trouble is, you don’t know what’s going to inspire you. I got inspiration for a character during the middle of a work meeting a few weeks ago, from the person speaking at the front of the room. I hurriedly wrote down a description, other details I thought of while writing the description, and then had to try and get my mind back to the topic of the meeting. I had no time to really write, and I still haven’t gotten to work my character into my current work-in-progress.
I’ll admit, the last month has been crapping on my writing time. I don’t have it. I’ve moved apartments, am in the midst of planning several tradeshows at work, and am house hunting. That doesn’t include all of the normal daily chores and work that I need to get done. Unfortunately for me, and for many others out there, I have to schedule in my writing time along with everything else going on in my life.
In my opinion, you have to treat your writing like a job as much as anything else. If you’re in a job and you have to get this article done or this graphic designed (you can put in your own project here; I’m just going with what happens in my job) you can’t say, “Well, I can’t write/design that right now, because I can’t seem to find any inspiration.” Maybe some jobs let you do that, but I haven’t found one yet. You just sit down and do it, because you have to. That’s how you have to approach writing sometimes.
I admit that it sucks to sit down at your computer and stare at the screen for half an hour, only writing a few sentences because you can’t get your brain to focus. However, there are the days when I have an hour to write and, after about five minutes of thinking, the words just flow and I end up scrambling to keep going when my hour is up and I have to get going to get ready for work, go get the oil changed in my car or go to bed so I can get enough sleep. Sometimes that starts because I find a writing prompt, or I go back in my story a ways and read to get back into the story.
Muses are fickle things. It’s like another Tweet I read, though this was a while ago, from Jonathan Gunson: “Lacking inspiration? Just start writing. Your muse, like a cat, will become curious and eventually join in.”