Finding the Inspiration to Write

Inspiration.

It’s both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes inspiration can strike at the most inopportune moments (showering, driving, working), yet when you need it, it’s nowhere to be found. How do you find it? Where do you go to encourage your muse to start spinning intricate sentences and plots?

Instagram user @mybookstoredk asked about my inspirations, so here are a few things I draw from to get the creative juices flowing.

Reading: This is likely a no-brainer. The whole reason I write is because I’ve fallen in love with books and authors. You’re supposed to read books in your genre to help motivate you, but sometimes I find reading a poem can spark my creativity. Pick up a book that calls to you. I started reading Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor when I was having trouble writing and editing. Her style struck a chord in me, and within five pages, I felt myself drawn back to my stories.

Music: Music has always played a big role in my life, which is probably why I tend to spin bardic songs. I grew up listening to musicals and movie soundtracks. When I was five, I could tell my mother exactly what was happening in The Little Mermaid instrumental pieces. Harry PotterLord of the RingsPirates of the CaribbeanHamilton, Cats, Rent…All of these movie or musical soundtracks help spark my muse. I can imagine scenes between my character during certain songs. The emotions imbued by the music encourage me to get into characters’ heads or sense their feelings. If you’re stuck with writing, take a favorite soundtrack and listen to it. Find the songs that remind you of your characters. Create playlists, so when you get stuck, you can turn to that specific playlist to find inspiration. I have one called “Whispers” that’s over an hour-and-a-half long!

Nature: Honestly, going out into nature inspires me. I get away from technology and enjoy the peace around me. No twitter or facebook notifications. My head can sound pretty loud at first, but as I focus on gardening or walking in the woods, getting back to my roots you might say, I create images for my book. That’s all I focus on, and nothing else distracts me. Plus, the fresh air is pretty nice for the soul.

Visiting New Locations: Changing scenery can inspire me. I have three writing spots at home (the aviary, my kitchen, my living room). Shifting from one location to another can put me into a better mindset to write. Right now, I’m sitting at a pub working on this entry, listening to the ambiance of music playing, people chatting, and glasses clinking while cars and motorcycles roar past me outside. It’s so much different from the silence at my house, or my birds chirping.  Going to new cities, parks, restaurants, anything can change your perspective and put you in a different mind to write. If you don’t know what to put on paper, then start making a list of the things you see, ear, smell, taste, and feel. It’s a great sensory exercise at the very least.

Other Authors: Many people say that the publishing world is competitive, and in a way that’s true. But it doesn’t have to be. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. One of the best things about being part of a writing community is meeting other writers and sharing in their successes. Celebrating each other is invigorating. When I watch my friends and fellow writers publish their books, that inspires me to work on my own craft! The whole reason I finally decided to publish The Purple Door District is because my friend Alexandra Penn had the courage to put her heart and soul in print with her series The Letter Mage. I wanted to be brave like her and feel joy and satisfaction at finally putting a book out there. Not to mention I have a story all about community to share. Don’t see other authors as your competition, but rather as friends, mentors, and inspirations.

These are just a few things that spark my muse. What things inspire you? Feel free to share them, and any topics you’d like me to write about, below!

Happy writing!

How to Create a Writing Routine

One of the biggest excuses we writers have about not writing is that we don’t have the time. I get it. We have kids, pets, or spouses to take care of, jobs that eat away our lives, volunteer positions that make the days long, and health issues that steal creativity. Sometimes it really does feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day.

So how does writing fit in and still allow you to get enough sleep at night?

Well, that depends on the writer. Some people work better in short spurts. Others need longer periods to craft their stories. Here are a couple of ideas that can get you started.

Word Count Routine: Set a word count for yourself that you need to achieve by the end of the day. It can be 50 words or 5,000 words. Choose what feels comfortable for you. Make sure you start out small. You want to create an attainable goal, otherwise you’ll just be disappointed if you don’t reach it. One author said her goal was to write a sentence each day because sometimes a sentence is all you need to get back into the story. This can be completed at random periods throughout the day or in one sitting.

Sprints: One of the fun exercises that NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) people like to do is sprints. No, I don’t mean run around a building (though I think we could all use a chance to stretch our legs). Someone will set a timer, usually about five or ten minutes, and then everyone writes as fast and as much as they can in that time period. The goal is to have the most text written by the end. Friendly competition might get your brain moving or at least keep it motivated. You don’t have to do it for very long, but you can get a lot out of it. The more you do it, the more you’ll get used to it. This is a great thing to do if you’re with a group of writers and trying to help one another get motivated.

Time Routine: Similar to the previous two, time routine means you set a certain amount of time to write. Maybe you want to make sure you write for 30 minutes every day, no matter the word count. Treat this like a work meeting. This isn’t something you can just “miss” each day. For me, I tend to start writing at about 9pm because that’s when my day ends. My friend, romance author Eliza David, likes to write at about 5am when I’m still dead asleep. Sit down, shut off all distractions (that includes twitter!) and just write. Make sure you have a timer. You can also use a phone app to help you stay focused. Forest is a great one. The entire time you work, you grow a virtual tree. Eventually you can make a little forest. If you stop early, your tree dies and never goes away. Morbid, I know, but it’s a good motivator.

Weekday/Weekend Routine: Sometimes a busy life means you can’t write everyday, and that’s okay. You have to have time to take care of you and everything else in your life. If that’s the case, schedule a time during the week or weekend that you can devote solidly to writing. Maybe Friday night is your night. Someone else takes the kids or cooks dinner. This is time for you and your craft. You can set up times every other night if you’re able to fit it into your schedule. Do what works for you.

Spurt Routine: A spurt routine is a little similar to sprints, only you’re not racing anyone. This routine comes from taking whatever available time you have in the day to write. Maybe you have 10 minutes at breakfast to get out a paragraph or two. You’re waiting at the doctor’s appointment; what a great time to jot down ideas or outlines. Friend running late? Pull out that journal and write some sentences. This may seem a little haphazard, but honestly, I sometimes get some of my best writing out this way. I have an intense 5 or 10 minute session where I just focus on nothing else but my writing. By the time I’me done and have to leave for work or get called back for my doctor’s appointment, I might have made my word count. Heck, I could have written half of a chapter during the hour it took me to get into one of my doctors!

People who truly want to write will find time in their daily lives to make writing important. You might have to give up an extra episode on Netflix, or maybe you can’t get together with friends on a certain night of the week, but we sometimes have to make sacrifices to do something we love. Keep in mind, though, that if you pick a routine that just doesn’t work for you or seems too insurmountable, it’s okay to change it. Try it for a month or two. If it doesn’t feel right, try something else until something sticks.

And remember, it’s okay if you don’t write everyday. We all need breaks, and if you really don’t feel the passion to put words on paper, don’t beat yourself up. Breathe. Take a step back. Adjust your routine. Going from a timed routine to a weekday routine might work better for you.

What kind of routines do you follow?

This topic is brought to us by @just_dahhhling on instagram! If you have topics you’d like to see, post them below!

 

Writer Burnout

It’s fitting that I’m writing about this topic since I’m dealing with writer burnout myself. Let’s try some real talk. As a writer, no one is harder on you than yourself. You push yourself to write, edit, market, publicize, etc. When you publish a book, you wear all these hats, and you tell yourself you have to keep going every hour of the day. If you stop, what if you miss an opportunity? What if people think you aren’t working hard enough? What if you don’t meet a deadline? What if–

You snap.

Suddenly the world crashes down and you don’t know where to go, or who to turn to for help. Ideas vanish. You sense the start of a panic attack. Nothing you do feels right or enough. And sometimes, you just go numb because it’s all too much to deal with.

This hit me last week, and I’m slowly crawling my way out of it the depths as I write this blog while sitting in a Panera. One moment I was up and productive, and the next I was curled up in my bed, unable to move from complete mental and physical exhaustion. Last week, the only strength I had was to go to work then come home and sleep. I knew I should put up posts, tweet, be interactive with the community, edit, write, etc but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I opened a blank page on my computer, and I almost burst into tears because plucking ideas out of my head was like tearing at an infected scabs.

Not exactly a delightful image, but it’s the best way I can describe it. I was surviving on caffeine and doing everything I thought I could to edit and promote my book. The one important thing I forgot to do? Take care of myself.

When you get to the point that even opening a Word document makes you sick to your stomach, it’s time to step back from the page. You’re allowed to skip a day of editing, writing, and marketing. You’re allowed to get more than a couple of hours of sleep at night. And you are allowed to take care of yourself.

So what do you do when writer burnout hits you? Here are a couple of tips.

  • Sleep: If you’ve been falling asleep editing/writing your manuscript at night, it’s time to step back and go to bed. Your body and brain will thank you. Even better, it’ll refresh you.
  • Shut Down Social Media: It’s not the end of the world if you’re not on twitter/facebook for a day. My favorite thing to do is to shut off my phone and put on a good movie that makes me happy.
  • Do Something Else: Try another hobby that’s not writing related. Go on a short trip. Hang out with your friends. Allow yourself to enjoy the rest of your life while you recover.
  • Take Personal Time: On the flip side, if going anywhere is too exhausting, then rest at home. Read a good book. Listen to music. Cuddle your cat or dog or bird (in my case). Focus on self care. If you don’t mind your body, how do you expect to keep going?
  • Take a Mental Health Day: Whether it’s from work (if able) or from social events, just back out and do something for you. Get a massage. Cuddle up in warm blankets. Allow your brain to rest. Getting rid of the regular stresses might help you recharge.
  • Write Something Else: Believe it or not, sometimes if you have writer burnout, it may be due to a specific project. Try switching it up and write something that inspires you, whether it’s a short prompt, or a fun story you’ve had stuck in your head.
  • Be Kind: I can’t stress this enough. Be kind to yourself and realize this happens to everyone. Taking a break doesn’t make you a bad writer; quite the contrary. It means you’re being responsible for yourself. When you break your arm, you give it time to heal. You have to do the same thing when your muse breaks, so please, be kind to yourself.
  • Remember it Doesn’t Last Forever: When you get into this state, sometimes it’s hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s there. Sure, there might be some smoke or shadows blocking it, but you’ll find your way to it, and your writing spirit will ignite again.
  • Make a Schedule: When you feel like you’re ready to jump into the fray again, take it slow. Create a schedule of things you want to do to get yourself up and running. And check off the things you accomplish. It’s a great feeling.

Please take care of yourself, my friends. It’s just as important to keep your mind healthy as it is your body.

Editing 101: Proofreading vs Editing vs Content Editing

I don’t know which is worse, writer’s block or editing. Yes, I said it, editing can be awful. Sometimes all you want to do is write, but instead you have to take that vicious red pen to your story and cut out the words you lovingly crafted.

Alright, so maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but I’ve spent the entire last week editing my manuscript, and it’s taught me a couple of things. First, let’s talk about the basics. What kinds of editing exist?

Proofreading: This is a cursory review of the text, checking for basic grammatical and punctuation errors.

Editing: Rewording lines, phrases, paragraphs, even pages! This is your chance to really clean up your document and make it pristine.

Content Editing: Content editing focuses exactly on that, the content. You take this step to find inconsistencies in plot, structure, character development, details in your world building, etc.

Think of it like cleaning a house. Content editing is picking up all of the junk on the tables, floors, and counters. You put the items where they need to be so you can get to a lesser mess. Editing is vacuuming and sweeping the floors, getting rid of the rest of the visible grime. Proofreading is dusting and polishing the furniture. It’s that last step before you feel like you have a clean house.

You have to take it in steps, otherwise you can get too overwhelmed. In the case of The Purple Door District, the last time I edited the book, I content edited. I checked for all of the major errors, plot holes, and inconsistencies that I had let slip through. This past week, I focused on general editing. I read every sentence and considered its structure, its flow, and its literary appeal. I ended up really enjoying that part, but it was exhausting as well. I felt like I was both creating and fixing at the same time. I’ve tried to do it all at once, and believe me, that’s even more draining.

Take it slow, and be kind to both yourself and your work. In all honesty, “editing” is never truly done. You’ll always want to change something, but there comes a point when you just have to let it go. That’s what professional editors are for.

Once my editor gets my book back to me, I’ll proofread it for any final errors that I might have missed along the way. Editing is quite the journey, but it’s well worth the destination. In the end, you’ll have a manuscript in your hands that you can be proud to call your own.

Happy writing/editing!

Author Spotlight – Erin Casey

Author Spotlight!

lmnelsonscorner

AuthorSpotlight

Author Spotlight

erinFor this week’s author spotlight, the light shines on Erin Casey.

Erin graduated from Cornell College in 2009 with degrees in English and Secondary Education. She decided to expand upon her teaching knowledge by leading writing sessions at first for the Iowa Writers’ House and now for The Writers’ Rooms.

She attended the Denver Publishing Institute in 2009 and has been a recruiter ever since. She is the Communications and Student Relationships Manager at The Iowa Writers’ House and one of two Directors of The Writers’ Rooms. She writes children’s poetry and stories for Whimsical Whiskers and volunteers at RARE, a raptor rescue center.

She’s also a devoted bird mom.

When not volunteering and working, she’s writing her LGBT YA fantasy story, posting urban and regular fantasy on Wattpad, and sharing her literary journey on Instagram.

She plans to release her first book, The Purple Door District

View original post 428 more words