It’s a contradiction we writers know all too well: wanting to write with every fibre of our being, but lacking the necessary inspiration to get started and/or keep going.
So what are we to do when creative motivation is lacking? Simply waiting around for inspiration to strike isn’t a viable option, but neither is forcing something onto the page just for the sake of writing. We’re left with no choice: we have to take inspiration into our own hands and seek it out ourselves.
1. Gain experience
It’s hard to write something truly good, something that profoundly connects with readers, if there’s no experience behind the writing. Now, when we say ‘experience’, we’re referring to both writing experience and general life experience. Let’s look at the difference between the two.
‘Wait a minute,’ you may be thinking. ‘Isn’t this a bit of a catch-22? If I’m having trouble finding inspiration to write, how can the solution be…to gain more writing experience?!’
We know it sounds tricky – and, truthfully, it can be. But there’s no getting around the facts: the main thing that makes your writing better is doing more of it. Writing and inspiration go hand-in-hand as a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy: often, the more you get stuck into writing, the more you’ll be inspired to continue writing, and so on.
Likewise, the more you write, the better you’ll get, and the more chance you have at success through publication or recognition. Oftentimes, a bit of encouragement and the reassurance that you’re doing something well can provide you with all the inspiration you need to keep going.
To get to that stage, though, you do need to face one of the most common problems for writers: getting started. But we have a few helpful hints in that vein, so read on…
It may sound clichéd, but the truth about literature is that when it comes down to it, all writing is about life. Every writer, whether consciously or subconsciously, draws on their own knowledge and experiences to inspire them and breathe life into their work.
As a writer seeking to be as prolific as possible, it can be easy to forget that actually living life is the best way to have things to write about! Spending all your time holed up, concentrating on putting words on the page, can actually be counterproductive. It’s impossible to write something that has real conviction, passion and impact if it’s not coming from a real place.
So, besides the natural course and events of your own life, what else about the world can inspire your writing?
Travel, of course, can be a wonderful muse; new cultures, new people and new adventures are all great catalysts for your creative spark. Getting out of your comfort zone and immersing yourself in unfamiliar places can refresh you and provide new perspectives from which to consider life.
However, you don’t necessarily need to spend six months abroad to foster inspiration for your next story. Seeking inspiration can be as simple as sitting in a café or on a park bench, people-watching and listening to snatches of conversation, observing the flow of the world around you and allowing it to blossom into concepts and stories.
2. Read widely
This one is a given, and it’s probably something you’ve heard many times before, but the importance of reading can’t be stressed enough. All good writers are readers too. No matter how individual a style or how natural a talent you have, your writing will always be made better by the other work you read and absorb.
Obviously, you should read extensively within the genre or style you intend to write in, but don’t limit yourself to that alone. Whenever you’re not writing, try to devour a variety of genres and forms. Explore fiction and non-fiction, short-form and long-form, poetry and short stories, magazine and blog articles… Read everything, and read often!
Reading becomes especially crucial when you’re lacking inspiration. We don’t necessarily mean that you should go searching for new ideas within other people’s works; while a brainwave might indeed strike you while you’re in the middle of a new novel, it’s more likely that reading will simply remind you why you became a writer in the first place. Try to use the work of other writers as a constant source of encouragement, inspiration and motivation.
When it comes to non-fiction, books about the craft of writing can come in especially handy. There’s an incredible number of books about writing out there, so the titles you find most helpful and inspiring will depend on your individual writing aspirations. To get you started, though, there are a few classic staples that we recommend, as they will serve any writer well. These include:
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
- Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
- On Writing Well by William Zinsser
- The Writing Book: A Practical Guide for Fiction Writers by Kate Grenville
- The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop: A Guide to the Craft of Fiction by Stephen Koch
- Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury.
Here’s a great tip in today’s age of smartphones and social media: replace the time you’d usually spend aimlessly scrolling Facebook with some proper reading time. Whenever your hand automatically reaches for your phone during lunch breaks or before bed, redirect it towards a book instead! Your writing will thank you for it.
3. Be part of the writing community
Writing is something of a lonely pursuit. Solitary by nature and by necessity, the craft of writing demands that its pursuers spend a great deal of time inside their own heads. While this suits the majority of writers, there are times when it inevitably leads to frustration, a sense of isolation and a lack of inspiration.
When this is the case, it’s time to re-join the real world, and the best way to do so while also seeking inspiration is to connect with likeminded individuals in the writing community.
As we mentioned in point 2, the work of other writers is often a great source of inspiration – but what about writers themselves? Surely there’s no better way to motivate, reaffirm and refresh yourself than by reaching out to people who are just as passionate about writing as you are!
Obviously, this isn’t as easy as flicking Margaret Atwood an email to ask for a few tips. Instead, you’ll need to track down writers online or in your area – most of whom will be amateurs just like you – and start up a discussion, a joint project, or even just a new friendship.
A few good ways to immerse yourself in the writing community include:
- Joining a local writer’s group or your state Writer’s Centre;
- Attending literary festivals, events, classes and workshops;
- Participating in online forums, such as Facebook groups for writers;
- Exchanging work with other writers for feedback and critiques.
The pleasure and benefit you’ll gain simply by talking to another writer is a gift in itself. To discuss your shared passion and craft, and perhaps most importantly of all, to be reminded that other people are having the same difficulties as you… There are few things more encouraging or inspiring to a struggling writer.
4. Keep things in perspective
Writing anything at all – whether it be a well-developed short story or (gulp) an actual full-length novel – can be extremely daunting. An insurmountable wall of possibilities and obstacles can loom up before you, and questions like ‘Where do I start?’ or ‘How can I ever finish?’ can haunt even the most confident wordsmith.
At times like these, it pays not only to remember that you aren’t alone (see point 3), but also to have a sense of perspective. Tackle things in terms of the bigger picture: remind yourself that all writers have been where you are, and that the only way you can truly fail is never to start at all.
To lessen the intimidation factor, keep in mind that writing just a few hundred words every day will add up in the long run. Before you know it, you’ll have a solid foundation upon which to build and expand or refine and improve.
For every writer, crafting stories takes time and extensive effort, so don’t beat yourself up about the problems you can see with your manuscript or the length of time you’re taking to write it. Just take things one word at a time; after all, that’s the only way to get things done.
5. Know yourself as a writer
A writer, like any other professional, needs to know how to play to their strengths. By doing so, you’ll ensure that you’re at the top of your game, producing the best work possible – and you’ll also nip a lot of insecurity and doubt in the bud.
Don’t dwell on your writing’s weaknesses or despair over the aspects of the process you find most difficult. By all means, work to improve these elements, but never allow pessimism to consume you – and, most importantly, never compare yourself negatively to other writers. Instead, focus on what you do best and what you’re most passionate about, and you’ll always find the inspiration and motivation you need.
For instance, if you have a knack for immersive, detailed description, try to build your story around this technique, painting a vivid and engaging portrait for your readers. If you’re more suited to writing snappy, compelling dialogue, use that as a focal point in your writing instead – or even try out a completely different medium that favours dialogue, such as scriptwriting.
As well as knowing your strengths as a writer, you should also make a point of structuring your writing process around your strengths as a worker. For example, if you find you’re most creative and productive first thing in the morning, get up early and dedicate AM hours to writing. Night owls, on the other hand, might choose to rise later so they can stay up writing into the night.
The bottom line is that no two writers will ever write – or work – in exactly the same way. Use this to your advantage by honing in on your individual strengths and allowing them to inspire and guide your writing.
6. Focus on writing first and editing later
At one stage or another, you’ve no doubt come across this sage piece of advice: ‘Write drunk, edit sober’. (While it’s commonly attributed to Hemingway, there’s no evidence that he ever actually advised such a thing – but that’s another story for another day.) While we’re firm believers that you should do what works for you in order to be inspired, we’re not necessarily suggesting that you pop a bottle of red every time you want to write!
Rather, we’re saying that you shouldn’t hold yourself back in any way when creative inspiration strikes. Have you ever sat down to write and found the words flowing forth quickly, effortlessly, almost as if you couldn’t control them? Have you ever found yourself feeling suddenly compelled to scribble down a phrase, thought or idea, even though you’re not entirely sure of the direction it’s leading?
Our advice is to always embrace that feeling completely. Whenever you’re struck by pure inspiration like this, don’t interrupt its flow for anything – let alone to correct grammar, change a word or rearrange a sentence. Without overthinking it, allow yourself to write whatever comes naturally, and don’t stop until you’ve run out of words! Get everything out onto the page, even if it doesn’t quite make sense or isn’t as elegantly phrased as you’d like.
It’s easy to develop the habit of editing as you write, but the truth is, this is neither the most productive nor inspiring way to do things. The writing and editing sections of your brain are totally different. When you’re writing, you’re tapping a well of creativity; you’re giving your mind free rein and exploring any and every possibility. When you’re editing, however, you enter a much more critical mindset, applying judgement, logic and rules to strip your work back to its purest and most effective state.
Always remember that a first draft is just that. It can be sculpted and shaped to your liking a hundred times before it ever sees the light of day; what’s important is that you have some truly inspired raw material to work with in the first place.
So, writers: after all that, are you feeling any more inspired? If not, don’t worry. It could just be one of those days – we all have them. Take a break and come back to your writing later; but in the meantime, perhaps try out one of our suggestions and see if it stimulates your creativity. You may be pleasantly surprised with the results.
Shared from www.writersedit.com.
A retired pastor asked a friend who owned a pickup truck to stop by his house. Once there, he loaded several heavy-duty plastic bags into the back of the vehicle. “Drive me to the city dump,” said the elderly minister.
Once there, he pulled the large black bags out and stepped a few feet away. In a few minutes a bulldozer buried the contents. With a questioning look on his face, the friend asked, “Sir, what was in those bags?” With tears streaming down his face, the pastor said, “Sixty years worth of sermons and notes—my life’s work.” This true story should not have happened.
Perhaps this elderly pastor is similar to others today. As a young man, he intended to publish his work. Procrastination became his friend, and the myths of why he couldn’t write became his enemy. As health and age-related problems crept in, he realized he had become a victim of false beliefs.
As a pastor, what keeps you from writing? Do you fall in the category of believing in one or more of these seven myths? Or do you seek the truth and use writing as part of your ministry? You decide!
Myth # 1: The Time Myth: I’m too busy to write.
Truth #1: Wise people are well-organized.
Pastors are busy people. They have congregations with numerous needs; they prepare one, two or sometimes three sermons each week. Most have responsibilities as a spouse and parent, plus hundreds of other duties. Many serve on local and state committees and travel extensively. It’s understandable that they can’t add writing to a busy schedule.
Bob Agee, president emeritus of Oklahoma Baptist University and former pastor of churches in Memphis and Louisville, believes there are two major reasons pastors do not write. The first is management of time; the second is discipline. Because of an unwillingness to manage time and discipline yourself to carve out time each week to write, the world loses ideas that only are heard by one congregation.
Effective time management means scheduling ourselves to focus on priorities, which can include writing, and there are tools and methods which can help us maximize the time we have for such tasks. For example, as you write and research, develop an electronic system of collecting data, statistics or articles in a designated file. Or if you’re more comfortable with a vertical file, save those clippings and drop them into a manila folder in your file cabinet.
One word of caution: Too many files can overwhelm you! The late Bob Hastings, former editor of the Illinois Baptist, warned about keeping paper clippings. “Don’t waste your time cutting out newspaper or magazine articles and filing. They will consume your space. That’s what we pay librarians to do.” Today, Hastings would have everything neatly organized and stored in digital files.
Regardless of your preferred method of filing, think of ways to use information that inspires, educates, informs or entertains readers in the Christian market. Writing can include: how-to, travel (missions and volunteers), devotions, interviews and church curriculum. When writing sermons, think of other ways to use the material later. Could some of the illustrations be used as devotions? Could the work be turned into a book?
Agee points to the writing example of Herschel Hobbs, who wrote 54 commentaries, The Baptist Faith and Message, Sunday School lessons and weekly columns on “Baptist Beliefs.” By organizing your time and disciplining yourself to sit down and write, you have the opportunity to extend your ministry.
Myth #2: My English isn’t perfect. I don’t write well.
Truth #2: Writing improves communication skills.
In Exodus 4, God called Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt; but Moses replied, “I am slow of speech and tongue” (Ex. 4:10). Moses said, “O, Lord, please send someone else to do it” (Ex. 4:14). God allowed Aaron, his brother, to go with him, and God instructed him about what to say.
When teaching writing classes and encouraging pastors to attend, often I hear some similar excuses. “I know my English isn’t perfect. I can speak to a congregation of my people, but writing…well, it’s like putting something down in stone. It’s available for everyone to see.”
As in Moses’ case, if God calls you to do something, He will walk with you. He will see you through the task. Trust God. Whether we agree, we are evaluated by how well we communicate with others. Writing and speaking are two forms of communication, though writing takes longer.
Writing is a skill, and a skill can be learned. Because communication is at the forefront of a pastor’s job responsibilities, this is an area where it is worthwhile to spend time and energy enhancing your skills. As you grow in ability to communicate effectively, you’ll also enhance your writing skills.
Editors need fresh ideas. Tools are available to assist writers. The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White is considered one of the best guides to the usage of the English language. There are other online tools to help refine your writing skills. Computers have spell check, but don’t rely on this tool without thoroughly reading and editing your work. See if there’s an editor in your church who’s available to proof your work.
Myth #3: I’ve been rejected by traditional publishers.
Truth #3: Self-publishing is gaining respect.
Writers often report having sent a manuscript to an editor and waiting months for a response. Again and again they try, only to be rejected each time. Although it may be increasingly difficult for unpublished authors to work through traditional book publishers, there is a reasonable alternative: self-publishing. There are a number of firms that specialize in helping authors publish and market their own books, and some have a particular focus on pastors and church leaders.
Do some Internet research to discover sites that explain how to self-publish your book. There are companies that will do much of the work for you, but be sure to connect with one that’s reputable. Among the better companies that work with pastor-authors are Xulon Press (owned by Salem Communications) and Cross Books (a division of LifeWay). Talk with other writers to get their recommendations. Viewing samples of their published books is a good way to evaluate finished products.
Of course, today it’s not necessary to have a printed book in order to be a published author. The growth of ebooks and popularity of ereaders makes forgoing print a reasonable alternative. According to one recent report, ebooks are selling more than three times the amount of printed books.
One word of caution: Once a book is published, there’s no guarantee you will sell those 1,000 copies sitting in your garage, so don’t spend money you don’t have on self-publishing!
Myth #4: I don’t have time to promote a self-published book.
Truth #4: Be your own representative.
If you work with a traditional publisher, large companies have representatives all over the world who promote your book. However, in my experience, the author is still the one who works hardest to spread the word about his or her project. Within the town or community where you serve, make a list of civic clubs, businesses, Christian schools and universities, and other denominational groups where a speaker often is needed.
Volunteer to present a free program focusing on your book. Design a PowerPoint presentation using appropriate music, movement and visual images. Purchase the books at cost and have them available to sell if those attending request an autographed copy. Contact the media prior to the event. Ask local radio and television stations for a few minutes to discuss your book (and the program if appropriate). Build a network of people who can help you. Write thank-you notes afterward.
If you self-publish, write a book that helps people. Word of mouth promotes a good book. Resources such as Amazon and CreateSpace offer free worldwide advertising. Plus, authors earn a higher percentage with these companies than if they went with a traditional publisher. Traditional publishers often take 18 months or longer from the beginning to the end of the publishing process. Once a book goes on Amazon or CreateSpace, it’s available for purchase within 24 hours.
Myth #5: I don’t feel writing is as important as preaching a sermon.
Truth #5: Writing helps discipline sermon preparation.
“I began writing while I was a pastor,” says Cecil Murphey. “I wrote one hour every morning before my secretary reached the office. Not only did it spread my reputation (and attract new people to our congregation), but the discipline forced me to focus on thoughts and choose the exact word I wanted.” Murphey has written or coauthored 135 books, including international best sellers such as 90 Minutes in Heaven and Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story.
A pastor can speak to a few dozen or several hundred people on Sunday; but when he or she writes, that opens the potential to speak to thousands or perhaps millions. Also, the discipline of writing can make the messages you preach in your own congregation more effective.
Myth #6: My sermons are prepared for my congregation.
Truth #6: The written word reaches generations yet unborn.
Lonnie Wilkey, editor of the Baptist & Reflector in Tennessee, says, “Writing to publish is a natural extension of a pastor’s ministry. Whether it is a compilation of sermons or a reflection on…years of ministry, the pastor who writes to publish is leaving a valuable, historical record for future generations.”
Working with pastors across the state, Wilkey serves as an encourager to the leaders of churches as they write with an eye toward publishing. He relies on pastors to write articles, weekly Sunday School lessons and devotional material for the B&R.
Wilkey says, “I have a book written by famed Southern Baptist minister R.G. Lee, former Southern Baptist Convention president and a former pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis. Lee once pastored my home church, Lima Baptist in Travelers Rest, South Carolina. He writes about Lima in his autobiography. His reflections on my home church make that book a treasured part of my library, though it happened decades before I was born.”
An example of a pastor who reaches millions of people beyond his congregation is Dr. Charles Stanley, senior pastor of First Baptist Church Atlanta since 1971. Stanley has written 45 books, has a radio and television ministry, and writes In Touch, a daily devotion. In his personal biography, Stanley says he models his ministry according to this message from Paul to the Ephesians: “Life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the good news about God’s mighty kindness and love” (Acts 20:24).
One way a pastor can begin a writing ministry is to launch his own daily devotional for his congregation, using the church website, a personal blog or an email newsletter format to deliver the content. As you develop your writing skills, you can expand your horizons into other writing ventures, as well.
Myth #7: I don’t know how to start writing for the Christian magazine or book market.
Truth #7: Writing workshops and mentors are available to help you start.
Denise George, cofounder/teacher for the Boot Camp for Christian Writers, has trained hundreds of pastors and church staff to write to publish. George says, “Writing is a skill, and a skill can be learned. More than 3,000 people have attended our Boot Camps, and many of these have published books and magazine articles. Two factors that bring our people together are: We love to write, and we love God. We encourage our people. We stay with them and offer advice as they learn the techniques of writing and publishing. Most important, we pray for our people.”
Johnnie C. Godwin, who pastored churches in Texas, said, “I’ve come to understand that God’s calling is more like an amazing maze that He guides us in for all of life. If we keep on saying yes to His calling, He will make the varied expressions of His calling clear to us at each age and stage in life” (“Is God Calling You to the Ministry of Writing?” Baptist & Reflector, Oct 12, 2013).
What if the apostle Paul never wrote? Writing for the Christian market extends far beyond the church walls. Readers need the gospel of Jesus Christ in a world that needs to hear what they have to say and what Scripture teaches.
Shared from Preacher.com. Written by Carolyn Tomlin.
For new writers, getting started is easier than you think
Writing is all about inspiration. Of course, it is a matter of discipline to a certain point. However, most of the process requires inspiration.
All the qualified writers with years of experience face the same thing: they feel stuck at a certain point having no ideas or insights on what to write about, how to create a piece which would inspire others, etc.
So, if you are new to writing and experience the same thing, don’t worry: it happens to all of us.
Nevertheless, what you might not know is that there are things most writers use to get back their desire to write. And in this article, we will introduce you to them.
Eleven tips for new writers on where to find your inspiration for writing
1. Read more.
This is a key to successful writing. You need to read the works by other authors to check out their styles, motives, flow, and even their vocabulary. You need to have good examples to follow as well as brilliant stories to analyze and apply. You also need to learn from their mistakes.
However, we are not only talking about fiction. You can also read dictionaries, professional literature, or even scientific fiction. So, make sure you feed your brain with literature if you want to produce useful content.
2. Check out popular blogs.
There are hundreds of blogs which cover almost any topic in the world. Thus, frequently when writers feel like they lack the desire to work on their pieces, they opt for checking what other writers find inspiration in. Lists, decisions, achievements, and social studies taken from the blogs can serve as a trigger to make you move toward your goal.
Reading blogs has helped many authors; it might help you as well, so check them out.
3. Go outside.
Activities in the open air can have a truly wonderful effect on you. So, if you feel stuck or bored, go outside for a walk, visit your favourite place in the city, or ride a bike. You will feel how the energy you need so badly will flow back into your body.
Embrace the beauty of nature and enjoy being out as a part of your motivation source search. Find those old roller blades in the closet, or invite a friend for a stroll around the park. There are plenty of things you can do outside.
Don’t lose such an opportunity to improve your physical health and promote an improved brain activity.
4. Listen to the music.
You probably know that studies showed that classical music can have an impressive effect on your brain. The thing is that when people listen to such tracks, new neuron connections emerge. This leads to a boost of one’s creativity.
Meanwhile, you get the feeling of contentment when listening to music. It makes you happy. It creates an artistic atmosphere.
So, let such music play in the background while you are working in order to increase your productivity.
5. Get rid of distractions.
Sometimes all we need to boost our creativity is to get rid of all distractions which steal our focus and prevent us from concentrating on one task at a time.
So, make sure you turned your cell phone off and logged out of all the social networks when writing. This will save your time and energy as well as will allow you to achieve better results in writing even when you feel stuck.
Among other distractions are favourite books, correspondence, siblings (especially younger ones), or noise. So, when writing, make sure you have some privacy. Go to the nearest library or use your parents’ office to work in silence.
6. Write your journal.
Letting your thoughts flow can be a great solution. Just grab a pen and practice free writing. All the worries you have as well as things which are bothering you should be mentioned too, as they might be a reason you can’t write at the moment. Once all your thoughts are clear, and you don’t feel anxious anymore, the writing can flow better and faster.
They say that it is one of the exercises each writer should practice on a regular basis. Apart from writing down your thoughts and dreams there, make sure to add interesting dialogues which you overheard during the day, as they might serve as a source of inspiration later.
7. Observe people.
Where do the new plots and ideas come from? Where did the world’s most famous writers find their characters? It all originates from the real world.
There is nothing new under the sun. Whichever plot your book centres around, you can be sure it has already taken place in the past. Thus, observing is your key to finding new ideas and characters to describe in your stories. So, if you cannot make up a plot, take it from real life and use people around you as inspiration for the characters.
8. Do physical exercise.
The thing is that when exercising, we gain energy. We might feel tired afterwards, but our brain performance improves significantly. Our physical well-being is tightly connected to the creativity and brain activity. Thus, sometimes, you need some physical exercise to help you shake it up a little and find the inner strength to start writing.
This is not something you can do whenever you feel stuck; however, occasional trips can serve as prevention of an artistic wasteland.
Is there a place you always wanted to visit? What have you always wanted to see? Now is the perfect time for you to pack your backpack and hit the road. New experiences will give room for writing ideas while people you meet can become a source of inspiration for the main characters of your stories in progress.
So, plan a trip and go for a vacation for a good cause!
10. Spend time with your loved ones.
People you love can help you as well. Have some fun as well as some meaningful time together (though fun is meaningful too). Embrace the love they give you and spend time reflecting on what life with or without them would be like. Such reflections can also push you toward writing.
11. Spend time with the visuals.
Sometimes all you need is a series of pictures on a particular topic or boards of images on Pinterest by people from all over the world. Let your brain process bright pictures and produce ideas based on what it sees.
These eleven ideas can actually serve as an action motivation. Diversify your creative process and don’t view writing as a discipline only. You need room for creativity and other sources to encourage you to craft a good piece. We hope, these tips will help you in your search and that they will stimulate you as much as they did stimulate us!