Thanks so much, Ebony, for playing along!
I hate to break it to you, but there is no guaranteed way to ‘get’ inspiration. It’s either going to come or it won’t. Which is a dreadful way to begin a blog on the topic because you’re all looking at me, thinking, ‘come on woman, inspire me!’
But there is a way to encourage inspiration to come your way. You have to turn the computer or laptop on, open the file, put your fingers on the keys and start typing.
If you’re not , you won’t be open to inspiration when it strikes. Or creeps up on you. Or worms its way into your heart. I’ve found time and again this habit works for me. I make a start - sometimes with no idea about what comes next - and sure enough, something eventually comes to me.
It took me about seven goes just to work out how to start this post! I wasn’t sure how to start. So I took my own advice and just started. Then when I had a decent paragraph, I knew that might go somewhere near the top and the rest might follow. How am I doing so far?
Inspiration is like snark hunting. You’re never too sure what it is, and everyone has a different idea of how crazy and dangerous it is, and you never really know what you’ve got. BUT, you have to be in the hunt in the first place if you want to get one.
Which means removing distractions where possible. Hold off on emails, twitter, facebook, bebo, myspace and all that until after you’ve written. You can check them later, as a reward for writing. (Note to self, take own advice from time to time.)
Set aside a regular time each day to write. This is a difficult thing to do, because it means being selfish. It means telling the family you need to write. It means writing for yourself - and giving yourself permission to put yourself first - ahead of even your day job, or of mopping the floors or doing the laundry or walking the dog. Work helps pay the bills, but it can sap our emotional strength. So how about writing before work, or during a lunch break or on the train too or from work?
Are there any jobs around the house you can delegate. Seriously?
In the long run, what would you like to be known for? A great writer or a great housecleaner. Because you can be one or the other, but not both.
Feeling inspired yet?
Are you inspired to get up that bit earlier, while the house is quiet, so you can get straight into it? This is not so much about inspiration as motivation, but the two go hand in hand. If you’re motivated enough to write, you’ll find the inspiration begins to find you.
Always carry a notebook and pen wherever you go, because an overheard comment, funny incident, obstacle or event can provide inspiration. Plus, if you’re daydreaming and crash into someone, you’ll have pen and paper to exchange insurance details.
Sometimes reading a particularly good book inspires you to want to be that good. Or, reading a particularly unworthy book might make you angry enough to do better.
Online courses are brilliant at developing craft and giving you the confidence to go on. Because along with inspiration and motivation come confidence. They’re all intertwined. Along with talent, but you can work on that too.
Another way to get inspiration - this works for me at least - is to join a critique group, whether in person or online. Being around other writers always fires me up. In the week before the meeting I usually get a lot written, and the week afterwards too, because the meeting has given me an injection of fresh enthusiasm.
But the other two weeks in the middle can be a bit ‘bleh’. This time around, I’ve managed to work through the saggy two-week torpor through sheer determination. And a steady supply of chocolate.
Lately I have become a hooked on Twitter. I’m drawn to topics like #yalitchat and #scribechat. The questions and answers are often inspiring, motivating or sometimes plain good fun. Plus, writing can be an incredibly isolating experience, but it’s nice to know there are so many others out there doing the same thing. We may be alone, but we’re all in it together.
And how could I forget the best inspiration of all - blind terror? Never underestimate its motivational and inspirational force. I have one book out there in the world, and it’s sold a few thousand copies already (in a very difficult economy, so thank you, every single one of you). But, I can’t rest. I am at the copy editing stages of the second book and I desperately want to get the third book written so I can keep up the momentum. I’ve noticed if people like a book, they want to read the next one. Right now, if you don’t mind. What do you mean it’s not written yet. Get on with it!
Ebony McKenna is the author of Ondine: The Summer of Shambles. Out now with Egmont Books UK and Publisher’s Group Canada. Book two, The Autumn Palace, will be out in March 2011. She’s currently writing book three, The Duchess of Winter.