by Elle Middaugh
When I think of writing inspiration, I think of the word ‘ideas’. Where do story ideas come from? How did the novel evolve from an idea to a finished book? But that’s not what I want to talk about today, because writing inspiration also calls to mind another couple of words: writer’s block.
I am a HUGE fan of Sabaa Tahir (author of An Ember in the Ashes, and A Torch Against the Night). One day when I was fangirling her (lol), I stumbled upon a video interview between her and Patrick Rothfuss (author of The Name of the Wind, and The Wise Man’s Fear). In the video, Patrick has a pretty awesome quote that stuck in my head:
“Sometimes you wake up and it’s hard to do your job. And if you’re a writer, you can say, “Ugh! I’ve got writers block.” But like, if you are a plumber, and you wake up, and you don’t wanna plumb, you can’t call your boss...you’re like, “Oh...the plumbing muse isn’t speaking to me today. I can’t come into work.” And he would be like, “Get your ass in here and lay some pipe!” There is no choice.”
- Patrick Rothfuss
For some reason, that really hits home with me.
Why are we authors allowed to have this elusive excuse to not do our jobs? Patrick called it a ‘muse’, but it’s synonymous with inspiration. Do I think that inspiration can strike us like lightning? Absolutely. Do I think we should sit around waiting on said strike? Probably not.
In order to keep the creative well from running dry, there are a few things I try to do.
First, I try to read at least one book every month for nothing more than pure enjoyment. It might not sound like much, but sometimes life can get pretty busy, and one book is better than no books. Reading not only keeps me from burning out, but it also keeps me up to date in my field. Plus, reading other authors’ words helps to stimulate my own writing.
Second, I try to write everyday (weekends excluded). I truly believe that if we could just force ourselves to write, then there would be no such thing as a ‘block’. It would be what Sabaa described in the interview as a ‘pause’.
“I have a friend, her name is Alison Goodman, and she’s another YA Fantasist, and she wrote a book called Eon. And she had a great response to this question about writer’s block. And she had said, “I don’t call it ‘writer’s block’ I call it ‘writer’s pause’.” And she said, “If I think of it as a pause, then what I think is, okay, I’m stopped and paused – WHY? There’s some reason. The story is not doing what I want it to. Maybe I’m forcing a character into something that that character wouldn’t actually do. Maybe I’ve got a plot issue. Maybe I’ve got something at the end that’s not working out.” Whatever it is, she can sense, you know her gut instinct is telling her there’s something wrong. And I started adopting that philosophy of, okay, this is a pause, this is not a block.”
- Sabaa Tahir
I have to say, I really like that idea! Thinking of it as a pause feels like less of a hindrance than a block. Blocks are obstacles in the way, pauses are just momentary breaks from movement. It feels easier to move forward from a pause, than to figure out a way around a block.
But if I do get into a slump where I just can’t make myself write another word, then...
Three, I at least try to do something writing-related. Whether that’s cover design, connecting with fans or fellow authors via social media, book marketing, or whatever, it helps me at least stay productive so that the lost writing time wasn’t for nothing.
Fourth, and finally, I try to keep myself in good health. I try to eat decently (which is definitely not always easy), drink enough water (even if it is mostly via sweet iced tea lol), exercise daily, and get enough sleep. I’m definitely not perfect, and I fail at these goals all the time. The important part, however, is that I keep trying. I keep striving to do/be my best.
So when it comes to writing inspiration, authors can find ideas anywhere. Oftentimes, my inspiration is just a random conversation between two characters I haven’t yet met in my head (lol!) But if I want to keep the ideas flowing, I think it’s necessary to take some precautions, and also to simply change the way we look at the writing process. Don’t think of your lack of inspiration as a block, but rather a pause. Use that momentary break in movement to assess your story and make sure it’s still headed in the right direction. If you’re mindful of these things, I think you’ll find ‘inspiration’ can strike every day.
“I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.”
- William Faulkner
(The Essential Elements, #2)
Publication date: July 24th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Valerie Moore is an Elemental, a person who commands one of the classical elements of wind, water, fire, or earth. She’s special, though. She controls two—fire and water—though sometimes it seems like they control her.
After the accidental exposure of Elementals to humanity, Valerie finds herself—and all of her kind—struggling to attain equality. Three different groups fight to secure leadership, and with all of their hidden agendas, she doesn’t know which side to choose. The balance between peaceful cohabitation and all-out war is precarious, at best.
When a chance meeting brings Val and earth Elemental Cade Landston back together, everything changes. She realizes what she knew in the beginning—that he’s the one she wants. Her desire to win him over draws her closer to him, and his vengeful mission to hunt down her murderous grandfather brings them both closer to trouble.
From mysterious doppelgangers to reckless rescue missions, scapegoat bombings, and evolving Elemental powers, Valerie strains to keep up.
All she knows is she must stop her grandfather at all costs. To do so, she has to figure out the truth, but how can she do so when almost everyone she knows has been telling lies?
Elle Middaugh lives in the Allegheny Mountains outside of Clearfield, Pennsylvania, with her wonderful husband and three beautiful children. Most of her time is spent raising kids, writing stories, playing video games, reading, and attempting to keep a clean house.
She’s a proud Navy wife, a frazzle-brained mother, a fan of health and fitness, a lover of hot tea and iced tea, and a believer in happily ever afters.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway