When I was 12, I read Little Women for the first time. Like most pre-teen girls with a passion for writing and a spirit of rebellion, I identified with Jo March. Inspired by Jo’s writing garret, I begged my mother to allow me to turn our hot, unfinished attic into a writing studio. Being both sensible and loving, she refused – pointing out the attic’s lack of air conditioning and stable flooring. Down, but not out, I improvised by creating a writing nook in one corner of the bedroom I shared with my sister. External influences provided the initial creative push I needed to think of myself as a writer, and over the years, my writing has been inspired by the people, events and places that have shaped my life.
But there comes a time in every writer’s career when the mind goes blank; when the river of creativity dries up and finding inspiration feels like panning for gold. There are three things in this world that I fear… defective rollercoasters, being buried alive, and the blank page. Sometimes, the responsibility of pruning that expanse of white; the burden of filling the emptiness with meaning is a crushing weight on my soul. I remember my high school English teacher’s prophecy, “You are going to become a great writer,” and wonder if it’s too late to become a veterinarian or an artist.
Exercise to Inspire
For years I was a slave to inspiration, waiting with poised pen for divine creativity to bless my words with its touch. And then I grew up. Kids, writing is like exercise. Most of us can think of a million excuses NOT to exercise, but once we actually begin working our muscles, our bodies often surprise us with their enthusiasm and ability. And that’s the approach to take with writing. Now, when I’m staring at the blank screen of my monitor and my wellspring of creativity is drier than the desert sand on a mid-August afternoon, I start writing. Sometimes I’ll find my inspirational gold after five minutes of writing, and sometimes I discover only fools’ gold. Either way, I’m exercising my creativity.
Talk it out
A friend of mine wrote the first draft of a novel last November, for NaNoWriMo. Once she’d put the frenzied 30 days of writing behind her, she wrote pages of notes and outlines about her characters and plot lines. I’d like to boast that kind of organization, but I’d be lying. When I started writing my novel, I completed two chapters before I ran into creative roadblock. With five children at home and a full-time job, I was hard pressed to find time to write notes about my characters and plot development. Instead, I used my morning commute as an opportunity to talk through my novel. With classical music playing in the background, I talked myself through an entire outline and some pretty good character development. I’ve learned what I’m sure Jo March knew from the beginning – the key to inspiration isn’t a writing garret or a high-speed connection to divine creativity. It’s an open mind and a willingness to exercise.