The New Year always starts with a bang of new goals, new projects, even resolutions to better ourselves in some way or another. Writers commit (or re-commit) to their stories and books and dreams of being successful in this crazy business.
But here we are, half way through the year, and many of those fall by the wayside and we’re left in a funk, compounded by feelings of failure for capitulating so soon!
Especially in a creative endeavor such as writing, those little demons can wreak havoc on our psyches. And there is, really, only one antidote to all of that: Inspiration. Elusive at times, but oh-so-joyful when we’re in the midst of her spell.
The word tracks back to mean, literally, in spirit. Those times when our fingers take off on their own, whirling through the keyboard (or pen to paper) and some outside force drives the story, the characters, and we find ourselves in the glorious creative zone. Every writer knows this feeling. We live for it.
But of course, so much of our time as scribes is spent slogging through the muck and the mire, cubby-holed-up in a quiet office somewhere, alone, trying to cajole that dang muse to get us back to the song and dance.
As we all know as well, writing is a lonely endeavor. It’s a lot of hard work. From that point of initial inspiration to finishing a manuscript, well, we pretty much all could write a book on what’s required. And sometimes I wonder why I just didn’t take up basket weaving (not that, mind you, I have any knowledge that it’s easier!).
I often think, when in that sort of trudging through the slough of despond, about a little book I read a zillion years ago called Hind’s Feet on High Places. The main character slogs metaphorically and literally through, and every time she’s about to give up, she’s told, “Call the shepherd!” This is a spiritual book, and I’m not here to proselytize for any religion. In fact, I tend to think of the shepherd as that illusive muse called Inspiration.
And when she just won’t seem to come, the paradoxical antidote is to submit to the slogging. Yep, to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, to quit designating any emotional value (such as, ‘You can’t write your way out of a paper sack!’ etc.) to the process, and to just write.
Of course, often in revision, you can easily tell those un-inspired places. Big deal. They can always be rewritten, with renewed vigor, and funny enough, often end up some of the best pieces of all.
When Inspiration leaves, I’ve come to trust that she always at some point returns.
Many things can give us a shot in the arm to help as well. Of course, when a new book is published this causes Inspiration to sing. It makes all the drudgery worth it, all the blood, sweat, tears can now be viewed with rose-colored glasses. A book!
But we all know that taking a manuscript from idea to publication is a long and winding (sometimes treacherous road. So we do of course have to find that muse when she wanders off track.
What I tell my writers at this point is quite simple, really. Although as we all know, simple doesn’t mean easy. The antidote: Write your way out of it. Write, write, write some more. Again, it doesn’t make a whit of difference if you ultimately trash it all.
But that muse is a jealous lover. And when you stay committed to her, no matter what, she truly does always return.
So when sometime down the road, you again hit a big ocean of mud, just feel your way back to the creative path. Honor it—whether in glory or mire. And then, once more, Inspiration will sing.