Writers have all been guilty of this at some point, right? You’re talking to a family member, a friend, or a coworker about the book you’ve been working on. You’re excited, gesturing with your hands, describing the intricacies of the narrative you’ve crafted. Then you hit a snag in the conversation that starts when they utter the sentence, “It sounds awesome, can I read it?” Suddenly your stomach tightens, everything in you recoils, you look down and rub the back of your head, “Um… it’s not finished yet.” You hope they drop it there, but they always ask, “Well, what are you waiting for?” you don’t want to say it, you know how cliche it sounds and you hate yourself for even thinking it, but they’re looking at you waiting for you to respond so you say, “Waiting for inspiration to strike.”
If they’re not a writer, they’ll usually drop it there, they don’t know enough about the process to call you out, but anyone who is a writer can smell it from a mile away…Procrastination. ‘Waiting for inspiration to strike’ is writer speak for I’m not making enough time for my book. Here’s how to stop ‘waiting for inspiration’ and start finding it.
1) Stop watching Netflix so much
Don’t give us that look, we all know you’re coming home from work and in the very limited free time you have you’re binge-watching shows. We get it, your days are long between work and spending time with family and when you have a second to yourself all you want is some quality you time. Taking a bath, catching up on Handmaid’s Tale, scented candles and a glass of wine- sounds super relaxing right? Well, is relaxing going to get your book written? No? We didn’t think so. Instead, push yourself to write for an hour even if you don’t ‘feel like it’. It’ll be tough at first, but you’ll get into your normal rhythm and actually get some quality work done.
2) Limit time with friends
We’re not saying you shouldn’t have a social life at all, but if you’re going out and spending every free night you have with friends instead of writing your book- that’s a serious red flag. Cancel plans, stay home, sit down with your notebook or laptop and spend time getting to know your characters instead. How can you expect to ever finish your book if you’re spending more time with your real friends than with your characters?
3) Stop surfing the web when you should be writing
That’s right, we’re looking at you- the person who is online shopping and looking up flight prices for vacations they can’t afford when they should be writing their book. Instead of looking up vacations we both know you don’t have time for, take a trip into that fantasy novel you’ve been working on. Instead of shopping for new clothes that you don’t need, give your character some new and expensive armor. If you have to use internet blocker services, do it- be strict with yourself. This is the time you’ve actually set aside to write and you need to use it in its entirety if you ever want to finish your manuscript.
4) Stop getting distracted by new ideas
We’ve all been guilty of Shiny New Idea Syndrome at some point in our writing careers. We’ve been working on our book for years and we love it, but we’ve hit a bit of a slow point in the writing process. Suddenly, our minds are bursting with shiny new ideas about a second book, entirely unrelated to the book we’re working on. We’re excited by that idea, that new idea is good and it doesn’t have any of the roadblocks we’re facing with the idea we’re working on now. We’re trying to focus on our book… but this new idea keeps creeping back into our minds and we can’t seem to muster up the same enthusiasm for our book as we once did.
Write down the new idea in a notebook or document, make sure you have all the details there, and then close it up. DO NOT open that document until you’re finished with your book. It may be an amazing idea, but it’s only going to distract your ‘inspiration’ from your current book- you know, the one you should be working on?
5) Make a strict schedule for yourself
‘But I’m a creative person, I go where the wind takes me, strict schedules don’t work for me, they ruin my inspiration…’ we don’t want to hear any of that, OK? If you sit around waiting to be inspired until you write, these are the two things that will happen: 1) You’re only going to get ideas or feel inspired at times when it’s most inconvenient for you to write (IE when you’re at work, in the shower, driving, etc.) and 2) It will take you years longer to finish your book than it should. Set aside time to write each week, whether it be an hour three days a week or one. That is the time you write, period. Don’t worry about how uninspired you are on any given day, push past the layers of resistance and give us some beautiful prose.
6) Stop making excuses
Stop.making.excuses. We’re sure you have a million reasons why you haven’t finished your book yet, but guess what? All of the excuses in the world won’t result in a complete manuscript. We adore our fellow writers and we believe that they have so much to offer with their words- which is why sometimes they need some tough love. We want you to finish your book as much as you do, we want you to experience the joy of seeing your book on the shelves and hearing how much it has changed your reader’s lives. But, in order for you to get there, sometimes you have to stop ‘waiting for inspiration’ and start making your own.