My Favorite Writing Advice ~ Inspiration Has To Find You Working

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Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.

Favorite writing advice:

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

Who said it:

Pablo Picasso

Why:

Well, he was a painter, not a writer, but still for any artist, I don’t think I’ve heard truer advice. You can’t sit around waiting for inspiration to strike if you want to be a writer. You have to sit your behind in a chair and write, write, write, even if it’s terrible and you think people would point and laugh if they read it. (Hint: so don’t show your first draft to anyone, not till you’re ready). If you’re already writing, it’ll be infinitely easier to be aware of what you need to do when inspiration shows up. You won’t be staring at a (sometimes scary) blank page. You’ll have a context so you’ll know where that fabulous idea belongs in the grand scheme of whatever you’re writing.

How it changed my writing:

When I was writing my novel, SMALL AS A MUSTARD SEED, I spent four months writing and came out with what can arguably (and politely) be called junk. Really. It wasn’t very good. I didn’t know if it was going anywhere. I was considering scrapping it & working on something else. But I worked on it every day, even if it was just a little, so I could keep the ideas and characters fresh in my head. And then finally, in the wee hours of the morning, inspiration showed up in the form of a character I’d been writing about, but this time instead of being an adult, she was a little girl, in a barn, being threatened by her gun-wielding father.

I had a context for that scene because I knew a lot about my character from spending four months with her. I had a setting (rural Ohio). I had a family (mother, father, sister). I had the dynamics of the relationships between all of them. I knew how that little girl reacted as an adult; I could figure out how she’d act as a child because of it. I knew the general direction the story was going from spending four months writing about her. When inspiration showed up, I plunked that scene into the beginning of the book and let everything work its way toward the ending I already (mostly) had. You can read that opening scene, the one fueled by inspiration, right here.

Don’t wait. Inspiration (and your life) is passing you by as you stare at a blank page. Get the pencil/pen/cursor moving. Expect inspiration to come. Write and write and write, and when it finally does show up, it’ll feel like magic that’s happening.

And if you’re stuck in your writing and/or just don’t know where to start, read this post.

So do you find yourself waiting for inspiration before you act? Please feel free to share your thoughts & experiences in the comment box below.

10 Responses to "My Favorite Writing Advice ~ Inspiration Has To Find You Working"
  1. Jeri says:

    I totally agree. What I’ve struggled with is gaining speed. I get hung on self-editing, but at least my butt is in that chair every day!

    • Hi Jeri! *waves* It’s so true that self-editing slows you down; I do my best to not edit until the second draft. Easier said than done sometimes. I’m so glad to hear your butt is in the chair. Rock on, sister!

  2. Great post. Totally agree. Just gotta do it. As I tell myself all the time, “This thing is not going to write itself.” Hope all is well with you, Shelli!

    • Hi Dina! Thanks for the fab compliment. Made me smile. :) Yes, it’d be soooo much easier if the books would just write themselves. 😀 I am doing really great. Hope you are, too. Cheers, darlin.

  3. Matt Forrest says:

    Good advice – I know it works for me! Children’s authors Jane Yolen and J. Patrick Lewis are great proponents of what they call the BIC Rule: Butt-In-Chair. Don’t wait for the muse…just sit down, and get to work!

  4. I find it’s all a matter of ritual. As long as I bring a cup of tea to the desk, I know I’ll sit there and work (at least until the tea is cold and I have to go get a refill). Nice post, and a great reminder for the New Year!

    • Hi Holly! Yes, ritual is half the battle, I think ~ lol. 😀 I have my coffee in my favorite mug &, like you, usually work until it gets cold and I have to go get another hot refill. Cheers, darlin.

  5. Amy says:

    Shelli,
    I have a 100,000+ word rough draft of a book that it just sitting . . . waiting . . . for me to return to it. It was such an effort to write it, and then I was sick of it by the time I finished. I know that I need to pull it out and start working on it again, and to finish it. Thanks for this, chickie!

    • Hi Amy!

      Wow, you’ve passed the biggest hurdle, actually getting it written. Rock on, sister! Yes, I know I’ve been sick of looking at my manuscript after a while and sometimes I need to put it down for a bit … but not too long. Hope you’ll start working on it again & CELEBRATE (because you’ve done something by writing 100,000 words that a lot of people say they want to do & don’t). Be proud of yourself!!

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