First of all, sorry that I didn't post yesterday. And that this post is also so late. I had a huge headache yesterday and today I was suffering from my usual issue, laziness. But not writing this blog post made me think about how lately I haven't been writing much of anything. My poetry teacher gave us no less than five possible prompts to choose from for this week's assignment, and none of them are striking me. I haven't worked on my novel in ages, and I totally put off a TCWT blog post I was supposed to write. (Whoops... sorry about that, too.)
Some of it can be chalked up to me just being a really lazy person. But some of it is because I haven't been feeling inspired. I haven't had any good ideas. And I know what some of you must be thinking: "oh, nice excuse! Do you think the great writers were always inspired? No! But they sat themselves down and worked anyway! You can't just wait for inspiration; then you'll never get anything done!" Yes, thank you, I know that. I know that any good writer knows that when you're not feeling inspired, you sit down and write anyway.
But what does that mean? I mean, it's all well and good to say "you sit down and write anyway" but when you actually sit down, with absolutely no idea what to write... what exactly are you going to do? Just write nonsense? If you don't know where to go next in your book, just write the most ridiculous scene you can think of? If you're having trouble thinking of a blog post, just be like, "uh... I guess I'll write about whatever pops into my head?" (And if you think this blog post is the first thing that popped into my head, it's not. I came up with at least twenty terrible ideas before deciding to write about not having any ideas.)
No. Of course not. As nice as it would be for writing to consist entirely of sticking your fingers onto the keyboard and having words come out, it's a lot more complicated than that. That's why the advice "just write," while being kind of true, is not enough to help someone with writer's block. Because writer's block is a very good name, despite some people denying that it exists: you're blocked. You sit at the keyboard and it's like you're pushing against a wall where you expected there to be a swinging door.
What "just sit down and write" advice fails to acknowledge is that writing isn't just pushing against the wall when you're blocked and running through doors when you're inspired. So much of writing is building yourself a door. There's research, and outlining your plot, and figuring out character arcs, if you're writing (and often when you're editing) a novel. There's figuring out what exactly your audience wants to read, if you're writing a blog post or something that's immediately going to be put in public. There's getting yourself into a poetic flow, if you're writing a poem.
So I'm going to amend the typical advice for those suffering with writer's block. Do not just sit down and write. If you're feeling a lack of inspiration, go build yourself some inspiration. Now sometimes that actually does mean forcing yourself to write nonsense or ridiculous scenes. That can be a good exercise for your brain to get out of its rut and, when you're writing a first draft, it can help unstick stuck plotlines. But a lot of the time, that's not what it means. Sometimes it means researching that country your characters are going to. Sometimes it means going for a walk where you'll see something that inspires a poem. It means whatever it takes to suddenly make you go "oh! Yeah, that works. I know what to write now!"
And building inspiration is not lazy. It's not an excuse to get out of "real work." Because it is hard work. You need to identify what the problem is, why you feel so stuck, and then do something about it. It's hard to do that sometimes when you feel like the problem is "ugh! writing is hard! screw this, I'm just going to eat an entire carton of ice cream!" But you have to tell yourself, "No. What's the real problem? Why don't I want to write? Is my plot too tangled up in this scene and it sounds hard to write through the entanglements? How do I fix that? Do some outline work, right? OK, let's go." And let me tell you, that sort of thinking helps a lot more than sitting at a keyboard and staring at the screen until you give up.
I hope that gave you some inspiration to figure out some inspiration of your own. I should use this on my own novel (though, considering the fact that I know exactly where I'm going with my plot, I think the problem is more the allures of Tumblr than any lack of inspiration). Sorry again that this post was so late- I'll try not to let it happen again.
See you on Saturday for my new experience post!