Do you know what inspires you?
I have long said that writers in touch with the sources of their inspiration are the ones who will keep writing. Writing is all about noticing, but we tend to focus more on the physical or finished product of our efforts than in how we got there (the process) or what started it all (the moment of inspiration).
All elements of the creative process are important. The piece of writing is the what of your writing practice. The where and when are contingent upon your unique schedule, the logistical structure you bring to your practice. Understanding the source(s) of your inspiration is how you cultivate self-awareness for the why and how of your writing practice.
Here are five common sources of inspiration that fuel writers and artists, and how to grow their influence on your writing life:
Know it: For so many writers, nature is an endless source of inspiration. Its cycles, its beauty, its awesome power—all speak to the human experience in ways large and small. Nature is in remote places we have to travel far and wide to reach, and it’s right in our backyards. If you find yourself wanting to be outside a lot, or are regularly making art about and in response to the natural world, then clearly it is a big source of your inspiration.
Grow it: Spend more time in nature with a pen in hand! Create mini field trips for yourself, where you go out and make mental or literal notes about what you see. Come back to your writing space and turn those notes into a piece of writing.
Know it: Many writers do more than write. We garden, paint, craft, play instruments, bake, knit, bead, decoupage, quilt, build furniture, mix essentials oils, make soap, home brew wine and beer, re-purpose thrift store finds, and so much more. Creative types like to work with our hands, keep busy, and make things. If you have more than one hobby or pastime that involves creating a physical object, or are always curious about taking up a new one, then the actual act of creation is what fuels your fire.
Grow it: Try different forms of writing, like poetic sonnets, braided essays, putting together a small children’s picture book, writing about a work of art (called ekphrasis), or using a series of photos or illustrations to write a short story. Experiment and make something new. Journal about your efforts.
Know it: Write what you know, right? We all draw from our own lives to some degree. Writers often arrive at the page to contend with hardship, redemption, and even trauma–not so much as inspiration but as an impetus for writing. We want to create meaning from an experience that might seem meaningless. We want to make sense of it, or reclaim a narrative that feels stolen from or silenced in us. We want to document our version of events, for processing and healing, but also for crafting and turning into writing that might have universal appeal, might help others. You are not alone if you often write from your own memories, especially if they concern difficult experiences.
Grow it: Practice self-care as you approach sensitive subject matter. Be kind to yourself. Acknowledge your fear in committing these words to the page and remember that no one will read them except you unless you choose otherwise. If you share the work, ask for the empathy you showed yourself in writing it. Developing empathetic practices for yourself and others can make it easier to do this kind of vital writing.
Know it: You are always on the go. You travel regularly, and your phone’s camera roll is overflowing with photos of the incredible places you visit. Your social media profile pictures are selfies of you on top of a mountain, then arms up on a roller coaster, then swimming with dolphins, and so on. You love road trips, with or without your GPS. You can’t stand being bored for too long. Adventure is your inspiration if you thrive on the excitement of newness.
Grow it: Document your adventures. You could journal, or you could write a detailed account of your next trip or outing and turn it into a travel essay. One of the best parts of travel is reliving it when you return to familiarity and routine; do this through the crafting of an essay that captures the place for readers and memorializes it for you.
Know it: That tingling at the base of your neck, or the warm feeling that spreads outward from your chest, that lets you know something has moved and inspired you? It comes when you read a spectacular piece of writing or spend time with other writers who are as passionate as you are. You finish a good book and can’t wait to talk to someone about it, and you use social media primarily to share and learn about the latest authors and publications. You take classes and go on retreats. You are in, or maybe you even started, a writing group at your local library or coffee shop. The written word itself is your biggest inspiration.
Grow it: Spend time each day cultivating your writing community. Reach out to a writing friend, share a favorite essay in the latest issue of a publication you follow online, and ask for feedback on your own work. Read widely. Choose a piece of writing you adore and try to write something that emulates some aspect of it.
Attune to what inspires you most to write more and better!
Which source of inspiration sounds like your own? What else inspires you, and how do you grow its presence in your life to keep you writing regularly? Share with us in the comments!
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