I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. My mother learned to type when I was four years old by asking me to tell her stories which she would dictate. Growing up, I entered a number of “young author” competitions and, for a time, my life goal was to become a creative writing teacher. Eventually that aspiration faded, the internet became a thing, and I discovered blogging. What I’m trying to say, is, I’ve been doing this a while.
Which is surprising, honestly, because I frequently hate writing. Writing is hard. It’s arduous, tedious, and maddeningly frustrating. So much so, that I refused to call myself a “writer” for the longest time. I was under the impression that writers, real writers, didn’t experience any of that. Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Anne Lamott just sit down, crack their knuckles, and watch as a perfect final draft magically pours forth from their fingertips.
Everyone struggles with writing. And not just writing, either; all creatives exist within a love/hate continuum of their craft. Writers are just the only ones to come up with a specific phrase for it when they’re stuck: Writer’s Block. In the words of Larry Correia, “Writer’s block is a filthy lie.”
Real talk? I re-posted an old post last Tuesday because I couldn’t think of anything to write about. Then I put up Jeremy’s post last Friday because I still hadn’t come up with anything. It is now 2:29AM Tuesday morning and I am still actively writing this post. (Hopefully it’ll be done by 7am when the post is scheduled to go live. :-/) My hope was that something over the weekend would inspire me. I would have an epiphany and suddenly where there was only empty brain-space, there would be a post instead. You can see how well that turned out.
So why am I publicly shining a spotlight into my secret shame hole? Because I realized something tonight.
We tend to think of inspiration as something obvious and inert; like an element from chemistry class. It’s this complete little package of perfection and you either have it, or you don’t. If you have it, then good for you! Run with it as far as you can and see what you end up with. And if you don’t? You have an instant excuse! It’s not your fault, you’re just not inspired! Obviously, the universe is conspiring against you and it’s utter refusal to provide you with the inspiration you seek gives you all the permission you need to continue doing nothing substantial. This is why I’m writing a post at 2:41 AM (That’s right. This is all the further I’ve gotten in twelve minutes.) The reason I never came up with anything to write about this week was because I allowed myself to exist in a vacuum. I didn’t read anything challenging, I didn’t watch any interesting movies. I didn’t meditate, I didn’t participate in Visio, I didn’t go anywhere new, I didn’t do anything that would broaden or deepen my life experience. That being the case, should I be surprised that I have nothing new to say?
Inspiration isn’t a thing; it’s a process. A reaction. Inspiration occurs when you bring together the things you love and actively take part in them. Think about them. Mull them over. For example, the novel I’m writing came about because I had just beaten Diablo 3, I was absently thinking about Harry Potter, and I walked outside to roll up my car’s windows just as a storm front rolled through. All of these things were in the beaker, and when the final element of a flash of lightning was added, they began to boil and bubble and change. They were no longer individual thoughts and concepts, they had transmogrified into a premise: “What if magic used to be real, but something turned it off? What if it started to come back today?”
All of that to say, if you’re blocked, if you’re stuck, don’t wait it out. You will never accomplish anything that way. Instead, go live life. Read a book in an unfamiliar genre. Eat somewhere you’ve never been. Change your scenery. Go see a movie. Look at something with a magnifying glass. Find the answer to a question you’ve always wondered but never remember to Google. Keep your brain active, keep it working. Keep your beaker filled, and eventually, lightning will strike.
P.S. Just because I know I would be curious– it’s 3:13AM. I’m going to bed.
Paul Clouse is the editor of Hunting for God. After growing up in an Assemblies of God church, he attended Johnson Bible College for two years before dropping out. In the time since, he has more or less figured out the whole “adulthood” thing, gotten married, and holds a steady job by day and writes movie scripts by night. He currently resides in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife Leah. HfG on FB