Writer, Need Inspiration? Here Are Three Ways To Get It

If you’ve been writing for a while, you’ve been there – the dark forest of writing.

There are no words here, no progress, only suffocating doubt and self-loathing. Every writer has experienced this before and just when we think this feeling will never surface it’s ugly face again, there it is.

Getting stuck is easy.

Stopping halfway through a book is normal.

But how do you get unstuck?

Are there elements that a writer can incorporate into their life so that these valleys are few and not as dark and deep?

coffee cup

Yes. Here are three ways to get inspired again. These will also reinforce the writer that is on the mountaintop of inspiration.

FIND A SCENIUS

Austin Kleon is a connector. He repackages ideas and makes them accessible. One of his ideas is described in his book Show Your Work!. It is the idea of Scenius

He claims that the lone genius myth is just that, falsehood. Writers, artists, and anyone that has achieved any level of success did that inside a community that fostered the pursuit.

Find a group of people that love writing and hang out with them. Online, in a bookstore, or come to the Jot Conference.

IF IT’S NOT WORKING DO DIFFERENTLY

Ever stop to examine your process? Ever come to the same worn out and unproductive conclusions after writing in the same place, with the same utensils, at the same time? Sounds like it’s time for you to make a change. 

Get up early or stay up late. Go for a walk and sit on a mossy log and write using physical instruments – paper and pen.

I was in the dark depths of writing for a while, then I began rising early and suddenly, even though I knew I was done as a writer, the passion for words flooded back. 

Often we need a break from monotony. A newness, a freshness to reinvigorate us on the writing road. Doing differently is a shock to the creative system.

CREATE MARGIN

We’re all busy. It’s the response to the question – how are you doing? Busy we say. Everyone has too much to do. Too many obligations. Too many service projects. Too many organizations to which we are committed. There is little time for joy, thrill, and novelty. Our weeks are planned out and we are sleeping five hours a night.

Most of the activities listed above are not bad things – save maybe the five hours of sleep a night – but we all need space. Our bodies need down time to rest and our brains and creativity wells need the same.

During a difficult season at my job where satisfaction was at an all time low I decided to incorporate a walk into my lunch. I grabbed a pen and notebook and began walking in the woods. I’d sit down on a bench, stare into the dark green forest or bare trees and snow covered earth and let the ideas come. I’d write them down if I thought they were worth keeping and sharing.

Don’t believe a walk is beneficial? C.S. Lewis loved walks. As did T.S. Eliot. It’s the white space where our brains rest and ideas can surface.

Today, if you need a little writing pick me up, I challenge you to find your own Scenius, do differently, or create some margin by saying no to one obligation this week.

Do you have tips for getting inspired? Share below.

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The Best Way to Fail at Writing a Book

It happens often. Mostly when I am struggling with my novel and I read a magnificent work of fiction. I drop the book, my arms fall to my sides, and I stare at the ceiling knowing for certain that I will never lossy-page1-1024px-Moods,_President_Lyndon_B._Johnson,_Secretary_of_Defense_Robert_McNamara_in_Cabinet_Room_meeting_-_NARA_-_192612.tifbe that good.

Many of my writer friends have shared this same thought. We compare ourselves daily and when we read a gold trimmed version of our favorite classic we are overcome. I get the feeling you, dear writer, may also struggle with this.

Part of the problem is what I bring to the table. I was not educated in Oxford nor was I a war correspondent for the Toronto Star during the Spanish Civil War. My life experiences are dull in comparison. But this is not the problem. The problem is that I consider even for a moment that someone else’s life is better than the one I am living now. I forget that everyone has a tale, whether tragic or otherwise, to tell.

C.S. Lewis wrote C.S. Lewis Stories. Hemingway wrote the way only Hemingway could. I bring Bob Evenhouse’ experiences and thus tell a story the only way I know how. This is what I must remember. I must reach into myself and write out of who I am, just like you must do the same.

The world of literature would be boring if bookshelves were stuffed only with novels about Harry Potter or Baker Street.

Write your story.

Cheers,

Bob

Books I Read In 2014

This past year, I fell well short of my goal to read 40 books in a year. That being said, I enjoyed some of the best books I’ve ever read.

My least favorite book this year was King Solomon’s Mines.

My favorite fictional character goes to Tiffany Aching for a third year in a row, Mr. Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series never seems to grow old.

A Moveable Feast was just that – delicious.

The best book I read this year was Unbroken. I am sure you were told by a friend to read it at to some point over the last few years and you need to listen to them. If not them then me. Please read it. I beg you.

If you don’t trust me just read one of the 15,000+ 5 star reviews on Amazon.com. I finished it a few weeks ago and I am not sure I can say it changed my life but it has changed its trajectory for now. I still cannot believe anyone lived that experience.

Thanks for reading, and please share any recommendations for 2015 in the comments section below. Thank you in advance.

Happy New Year.

Cheers,

Bob

  1. The Fourth Part of the World – Toby Lester
  2. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  3. The Travels of Sir John Mandeville
  4. The End of the Affair – Graham Greene
  5. The Giver – Lois Lowry
  6. Myths of the Norsemen – Roger Lancelyn Green
  7. 14 – Peter Clines
  8. Because of Winn Dixie – Kate Dicamillo
  9. The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis
  10. The Great Divorce – C.S. Lewis
  11. King Solomon’s Mines – H. Rider Haggard
  12. The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
  13. The Wintersmith – Terry Pratchett
  14. I Shall Wear Midnight – Terry Pratchett
  15. A Walk In the Woods – Bill Bryson
  16. The Adventures of Robin Hood – Roger Lancelyn Green
  17. Stardust – Neil Gaiman
  18. The Art of War for Writers – James Scott Bell
  19. A Moveable Feast – Earnest Hemingway
  20. 1491 New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus – Charles L. Mann
  21. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
  22. On the Wings of Eagles – Ken Follett
  23. Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand

Holiday Reads

Christmas TreeAs we approach the holiday season I start to think of books. Books that I would like to read which remind me of this time of year.

My ideal time for reading would be late at night, snow is on the ground, all is quiet in the house and the room is solely illuminated by the lights of the Christmas tree. I remember doing this while I was young and still enjoy it now, only I drink coffee.

While I peruse my bookshelves I am reminded of several books that I would consider “Christmas reads”. Either because they are popular this time of year or because reading them gives me a sense of the season. My scant list is below. Please feel free to add your own favorite holiday reads in the comment section below.

  1. A Christmas Carol – The season just does not seem complete without Marley’s ghost, Ebenezer Scrooge and the lot. I try to read this every year. It’s only a hundred pages or so.
  2. The Chronicles of Narnia (NOT the films) – Winter is a constant in Narnia when Peter, Edmond, Susan, and Lucy step through the wardrobe. The world is
    Marley's Ghost
    Marley was dead to begin with…

    never the same. I am starting with book one of the seven book children series in hopes of finishing by the New Year. Short and entertaining, a classic already.

  3. Luke chapter 2 – from the Bible. I remember my grandmother would recite this from memory just before we opened presents to remember why we celebrate this day and why it is important. I plan to do the same for my children keeping her tradition alive.
  4. Frankenstein – I know this looks like a typo. This is a Christmas list right? The myth is that Mary Shelley wrote this while cooped up as a vicious storm blew outside. Also, the book starts in the far north, during winter on a sailing vessel.  For some strange reason I am reminded of Christmas.
  5. Anything Dickens really – this is broad but my favorites this time of year are, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, and David Copperfield.

My list is short, but this time of the year tends to be busy and I have to sneak in what I can. How about you? What do you like to read this time of year?

Cheers,

Bob

Why I Listen To Audio Books

I love listening to an author read their book. Now some of you might recall an author who gave an awfully monotone rendition leaving you wondering how they could have composed such a beautiful story. So, let me rephrase that. I like to listen to MOST authors read their books.

The reason for this might be as simple as they know the characters and thus know how they might sound in conversation. Another reason is because you hear the intended inflection of each sentence as it was supposed to be heard, unlocking the story even more.

William Golding

For the last few years I have been on a classic binge. This romp has taken me through most of Dickens’ work, Graham Greene, Thomas Hardy, C. S. Lewis, and Ray Bradbury. Thus, one of my most recent library borrows was William Goldings’ Lord of the Flies.

Mr. Golding, though terribly old at the reading, can deliver a story. His introduction was spectacular and his ability to deliver a line was clear from the first sentence. He painted word pictures effortlessly and just listening to the first few chapters left a vivid impression of the story he wrote.

Recently, I was instructed to work on pacing. Working on structure or verb agreement is much easier. Pacing seems ethereal, like trying to investigate something in a spirit world using scientific instruments. So, besides getting critiques from my writing friends, listening to audio books is the best way I know how to glean this part of the writing craft.

Listening to audio books has helped me more than I expected. It has given me perspective and a glimpse of pacing. It has also given me something to do on the way to and from work each day.

Do you like to listen to audio books? If so, why? Do you use it as a tool to become a better writer?

Cheers,

Bob

C.S. Lewis, On Stories

I like essays. I like essays by any notable writer because it helps me get into their mind, read what makes them tick, and hear what formed their world and life and why this translated into book form.

C.S. Lewis is one of my favorites because he can write something like this:

My dear Lucy,
I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realised that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it – C.S. Lewis’ dedication of the Lion Witch and the Wardrobe.

If you have read any of the Chronicles of Narnia, you will know they are nothing like the Disney film travesties. They are wonderfully written. Read them.

I write this post today because of something I read in a collections of essays by Lewis titled On Stories and Other Essays on Literature edited by Walter Hooper. One of these essays is titled “Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s To Be Said”.

It goes like this:

In the Author’s mind there bubbles up every now and then the material for a story. For me it invariably begins with mental pictures. This ferment leads to nothing unless it is accompanied with the longing for Form: verse or prose, short story, novel, play or what not. When These two things click you have the Author’s impulse to complete. It is now a thing inside him pawing  to get out. He longs to see that bubbling stuff pouring into form…This nags him all day long and gets in the way of his work and his sleep and his meals. It’s like being in love.

Crazy huh? Does your work get in the way of your meals? Does it keep you up at night? Well, I think it should and so does C.S. Lewis. If, perhaps, it does not, is it worth your time?

Something to ponder for sure.

Keep writing.

Cheers,

Bob