With the advent of the internet, it’s easier than ever for writers to connect with one another. Because of this, I have met lots of writers who have very active muses, those that do not wait for the muse, and those that can only write when their lazy muse feels like it. I consider myself to fall in the second camp, I don’t wait for my muse or for inspiration, to write. If you’re like me, this can mean tricking yourself to producing.
Okay, tricking sounds simple. It’s not really a trick, it’s a series of carefully planned habits and practices that help me make sure I show up to write even when my muse doesn’t. Here are some tips to get you started down that path:
- Create a daily writing habit – Stephen King and several other professionals will give you this advice. Whether it’s setting a word count goal, or setting aside 20 minutes a day to write, create a goal and stick to it. Even if you write just 200 words a day, that’s 73,000 words a year. That’s a small novel. That’s several short stories. This writing may not feel inspired at first, but if you show up to do the work, you’ll be surprised how often it starts to feel inspired.
- Find a process that works for you – I have several work sheets for story planning. When I start writing a story, especially short stories. I pull one out and start the very fundamental process of character building on them. I usually start with 3-4 characters, give them names, 4 personality traits (at least one negative trait). From there I add a setting if I didn’t already have one in mind and I build from there. I am the sort of writing that likes plot that stems from character, so that is why I start with characters. Once I have plot, I work on world building and theme. The worksheet I use the most is here, which I based off a story workshop I attended taught by comics author Kelly Sue Deconnick. It gives me a great building block to start with, whether my muse had chosen to show up or not. Sometimes the traits I choose are literally random ones. Other times I have an idea of the characters and they come naturally.
- Writing prompts – Find a prompt you like, set a timer (15-30 minutes is usually the best) and write. The scene can be random or with characters you’ve already created, but write and see what happens.
If you want advice beyond what I can recommend in the space of this small blog post, I have a few books to recommend. They are as much about creating a writing practice as finding inspiration, but they have helped me immensely over the last few years.
- The War of Art – By Steven Pressfield
- Turning Pro – By Steven Pressfield
Both of Pressfield’s books are relatively quick reads, but they shine a good light on the practices of a “Professional” even when you don’t feel like one yet. He also just released a another book, Nobody wants to read your Sh*t, which he released for free to start out, so you might still be able to grab a free copy. I’ll be reading and reviewing that book, in a couple weeks.
- On Writing – Stephen King
I’m not a fan of horror, but I’m smart enough to know that Mr. King has some amazing advice on writing. I listened to the audiobook, which he reads, and it’s one I’ve gone back to time and time again.
- Fantastic Mistakes – Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” Speech
I own the hardcover book, but you can also watch Gaiman give the speech here. This is something that is great to read or listen to when you feel like you can’t do this. His voice is kind and encouraging, which makes it seem almost like his advice is coming from a dear friend.