Why You Should Stop Looking for Inspiration

Inspiration

Inspiration. As writers, we constantly seek inspiration to perform our craft. We want to blow away readers with something incredible – a fantastic never-told story, an intriguing blog post concept or a new theory that makes people pay attention. We want our words to change the world.

And yet, as writers, we struggle. We can’t find inspiration, or we grab it only to have it wriggle out of our grasp. It’s lost, and we have to find it again.

It seems all has been said, and all has been done. There’s nothing new under the sun. What on earth can we write about? Where can we find the inspiration to write?

Relax, Don’t Do It

Falling into that rut is a problem. Writers tend to create self-inflicted personal standards that we can’t reach. We force ourselves to reach impossible goals, and we end up giving ourselves performance anxiety. Inspiration becomes a goal that escapes us, or sometimes overwhelms us. It’s all we can think about.

By pushing ourselves hard to find inspiration, we drive ourselves into a mental traffic jam that goes nowhere. We tire our brains seeking immediate inspiration the minute we sit down to write, and we wear ourselves down by rejecting anything less than mind-blowing.

What’s the solution? How to we go about finding the writing inspiration we need?

Fuggetaboutit

Achieving inspiration means forgetting about it completely. Instead of seeking it out, we need to disconnect from the quest and sever our continual self-hounding to find the right answer, the ultimate story, the perfect angle.

Of course, there are the usual common-sense solutions to finding inspiration. Take a break. Go for a walk. Read a book. Play music. Give your brain something else to do. Walk away from the incessant hunt for inspiration.

Let inspiration sneak up on its own until it leaps out in a sudden burst of idea.

Can it Really Be That Simple?

Does that sound too simple or counter-productive? Keep in mind that most inspired ideas came along quite by creative accident. They weren’t found – they happened. Faced with the need to find solutions, people gave up their attempts to find the answer in search of new, innovative ways to resolve issues.

That’s how most of history’s greatest inventions came about: by complete accident. A good thing, too, because if our world’s innovators hadn’t pursued unexplored territory or followed crazy ideas where they led, we may not have had much of what we take for granted today.

Do the same. Drop your current methods. Forget the search for inspiration. Remember that the obvious path isn’t always the best. Take matters out of context and dump them into a new situation, something completely wild and crazy.

Ask yourself, “What if?” Then start writing.

Go Lateral

Struggling with a scene in your novel? Forget what you’re trying to accomplish. What if your character did something completely unexpected instead? What if she stood up and yelled, “Cows!” at the top of her lungs? What if he picked up a book and threw it at the window? What if one day, the sky turned red – and stayed that way?

Frustrated with the right tone for some non-fiction copy? Try a new voice. What if secret agents ran the company you need to write for? Are they corporate? Write them into baseball caps and sweats instead. What would their website copy sound like then?

The point is not to take these crazy ideas and hand them to your agent or your client. Not at all. The point is to unblock your mind by doing something completely different. Changing the context of what you attempt hands you the keys to creative inspiration.

Suddenly the perfect scene hits, all the right words fall into place, and you’re scribbling away in a mad burst of inspiration. Where did you find that inspiration?

In the most unlikely place, one you’d never considered exploring. Who knows where it may lead?

About the Author: For more creatively inspired accidents from James Chartrand, visit his blog at Men with Pens. Better yet, don’t wander over – grab the Men with Pens RSS feed right here.

Print Friendly

Smarter is Better Solutions for Smarter Content Marketing

Here’s what we’ve got for you:

  • 15 high-impact ebooks on content marketing, SEO, email marketing, landing pages, keyword research, and more.
  • A 20-part Internet marketing course that lays out a comprehensive path for your own online strategy.
  • An organized reference guide to the “best of the best” of Copyblogger.com, and how it all profitably fits together.
Free Registration

Take The Conversation Further ...

We'd love to know your thoughts on this article.
Meet us over on Google+ or Twitter to join the conversation right now!

Comments

  1. So true. Once you go lateral, you’re no longer looking for inspiration, you’ve just invited it over for a party. :)

  2. You can’t find inspiration. It just happens.

  3. Great article and I think Inspiration is just a word for newbie who are not in trade or for those people who want to avoid hard work…

  4. Nice advice James.

    Just to add to what you’ve said, I think it’s also vital to learn how to make the most out of those periods when we can seemingly do no wrong.

    I know I have days where it just all seems too easy, and I could write endlessly.

    Attempting to capitalize on these periods when we can, should be mandatory.

  5. Over time and through countless wasted hours, I’m starting to learn to stop striving for perfection on the front end.

    My best ideas come to me in the process of fleshing out inferior and soon-to-be-discarded ideas–but there is no short cut.

    So I try to write with greater abandon, knowing most of what I’m writing isn’t worth fine tuning and embracing that a major rewrite will come.

    In short, begin screwing up faster and a gem will jump out.

  6. I agree with previous commentor, inspiration just happens… most of the time. However, always “seeking” it could leave a blogger into a dark tunnel of no content, writer’s block… I try to have a balance, of seeking inspiration and creating my own. Great post!

  7. Great advice! Writer’s block is hard to deal with. Usually, if you’re trying to come up with ideas, you hit a bump in the road. It’s best to distract yourself, and that’s when I find I come up with the best ideas.

  8. To overly cliché: Inspiration is usually about two ideas connecting together. It’s much easier to do that when you have at least one of the ideas already out there on the page.

  9. I agree with your statement that most creative works come by sheer accident. It’s hard sometimes to naturally want to be creative and just think of something. Most of the time it just comes by accident. Of course it is always hard not to stress out if you are in a rush for something creative.

    Craig
    http://www.budgetpulse.com

  10. Hi!
    I believe in this approach. It comes when it’s ready. Just you be ready.

    I find it important to do my part to remain a receptive vessel.

    Essential to be a place inspiration wants to land.

    Thanks so much!

    @JuletteMillien

  11. @ Craig – For many people, it’s not about being in a rush. They sit down to write and BLAM. Loss of inspiration. (Maybe we writers shouldn’t sit down any more…)

    @ Daniel – Actually, inspiration is a stimulation of the mind; nothing more, nothing less. Connecting two ideas usually gives a burst of more ideas, agreed, but that’s not what inspiration typically is, at its core.

    @ MLD – I carry around paper and pen everywhere I go because god only knows when that GREAT IDEA will hit me. Driving is usually one of those spots (which is why I’m getting a voice recorder before I drive into the ditch!)

    @ BME – I think plenty of writers do that dark tunnel thing. It’s nasty in there!

    @ Chuck – Hm, that’s interesting! I’ll have to try that. Most of my best work comes when I completely give up and say, “To hell with it, I’m starting over.” Then I write freely and voila!

    @ Armen – If you mean banking up the draft material while you’re on a high, I’m with you there!

    @ Ali – Mm, I’d have to disagree. I think new writers have a ton of inspiration. Those who’ve been at it for a while are the ones who are tired out and word down. They need that shift in thinking.

    @ Steve – You can’t find it, but you sure can provoke it :)

    @ Brian – I’ll bring the beer. You bring the pizza. Who else is coming?

  12. Briliant. I could not agree more. Usually in my stories or anything that I am writing and get stuck, I just throw something out there. Most of the time it has absolutely nothing to do with the post or story at all, for instance the main carachter decides to drop a marshmellow off a bridge and witnesses the chain of events that unfold.

    From that, I usually get another idea for a story and get a fresh perspective on the story that I am currently working on. It is almost like a win-win.

  13. I have found this article to be very inspirational! But I’m going to ignore that feeling because of how inspirational this article has been. Excuse me, I need to go write now…

  14. That first subhead has inspired my next post. What Frankie Goes to Hollywood can teach you about persuasive copywriting!

  15. You got that one, eh Sonia? My only editorial role in this article was adding subheads… wondered if anyone got the Frankie reference. :)

  16. ah ha ha! Brian you are evil.

  17. @ Brian – Admit it, you love it.

  18. Great article. Cleared up some things that were going through my head. Thank you.

  19. People who are defending the “inspiration just happens” theme need to read a thin tome called “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. It’s based around a great quote by Somerset Maugham, “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

    And that’s all you need to know.

  20. @ KG – I don’t think inspiration just happens. I think you need to provoke it and ensure an environment that stimulates the mind to create a situation where inspiration *does* occur.

    Because like money, inspiration never fell from the sky.

  21. Yeah James, that’s exactly what I mean.

  22. i’ve often found inspiration to be most elusive whenever i’m actually reaching for it. when i want to write that killer copy, or come up with a hypnotic hook… i can’t think of crap.

    but, when i sit outside, cigar in hand and just BE i get my best ideas. i simply shape those ideas when i come in and sit at the keyboard.

  23. Inspiration…

    What to write,
    what to write.

    You look at the
    computer
    with resignation.

    You’re done.
    You’ve had it.
    Its not gonna happen
    tonight.

    Start button,
    shut down.
    No power.
    Head for the shower.

    Ah, water feels great,
    random thoughts…

    Wait…

    Towel,
    heart races,
    feet headed for
    the computer.

    Power.
    Word.
    Keys pounding.

    What just happened?

    Inspiration.

    An inspired comment about inspiration.

  24. If you actually have something to say, you won’t need inspiration, you will just say it.

    Whether you call it inspiration, writers block, or any other of a hundred labels, a good majority of the time you don’t have anything to say and you are trying to force it.

    Have something to say and your problem will be editing…not trying to get inspired.

  25. Potato Chef, that’s an interesting thought. I don’t know that I agree wholesale, but it is interesting.

    Often writer’s block is about HOW best to say something rather than what to say, so your point doesn’t apply there, but otherwise, I think you touch on something worth thinking about.

  26. As Sam Donaldson said (on national TV): “Get the mouth working, and the brain will follow.” I ROFLMAO’ed that one. But I think about it often, and I believe he’s right.

    Same with writing to meet a deadline. The key is to start writing and the good stuff will follow.

  27. Well, I know what has always been a constant inspiration for me: having old pictures or past bank statements of a time in my life when I really didn’t have much of anything.

    Seeing those reminders always keeps me grounded and lets me reflect on the choices I’ve made to get me where I am today; a much happier place where I never will go back…

  28. great advice! i used to think that blogging was easy, but it was only after becoming a blogger myself that i realised that coming up with entertaining, informative and interesting posts on a frequent basis takes a lot more effort and time then i would have imagined. sometimes i get stuck in a rut without any inspiration, and the next time that happens, i will be sure to use these tips!

  29. Great blog, refreshingly unique and clever!! I love the reference to Frankie Goes to Hollywood–gotta love, “Relax, Don’t Do It.” In my experience as a writer, inspiration sneaks up on you when you least expect it. If you try too hard to look for it, it won’t reveal itself. In my case, I need to grab a pen right away to write down that oh-so-fleeting brilliant idea before it slinks away into my incredibly flaky and unstable memory.

  30. Funny, after reading this article, I have found it to inspire me lol. I really like the part about asking “What If” and then to start writing. My imagination always goes to full throttle when I start What If’ing everything.

  31. I have a wonderful friend who one day decided that he was going to move at a right angle to time and space, you might not mean to move that laterally but thinking about similar ideas on the same subject and expanding your expertise into closely related areas is a great way to help exercise your mind while not having to search too far for inspiration.

  32. Well we know that blogging is not as easy as they said , it take more time , and it makes us think and learn about new thing around.
    I think bloggers can be a good journalist for a magazine as we are always keep looking for a new information ..lolz :)

  33. I think some writers, or some types of writing, don’t really require inspiration. Poetry…your novel…fine, get yourself wound up looking for a “muse.” But some writing you just have to “do.” Copywriting is easy (for me) to just do. Then when it comes time to my “craft” I can usually get that done because I’m not incessently searching for something 40+ hours a week!

  34. Great piece. Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, found a few years ago in FAST COMPANY MAGAZINE.

    Eva Zeisel said:

    “If you want to be creative don’t try to do something new. Doing something new means NOT doing what’s been done before and that’s a negative impulse. Negative impulses are frustrating. They’re the opposite of creativity and they never yield good ideas.”

  35. ah ha ha! Brian you are evil.