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Don’t Wait to be Inspired

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Ideas are not something I struggle with. I’ve got a million of them. When I get a new idea I make a note of it in a document I keep, and when I’m done with the project I’m working on, I go to my list to start the next book. (If you’re anything like me, you feel kind of “detached” when you don’t have a writing project you’re actively working on.) Anyhow, it’s once I get started on the project that issues sometimes arise.

My desire to write and tell stories are enough to motivate me toward attacking the new work, but what I’ve found is they sometimes aren’t enough to sustain me. I have at least five to ten MG and YA manuscripts in varying stages of completion cluttering up my Dropbox or Google Drive. While I won’t say I abandoned them, I will say I’ve told them “It’s not you; it’s me.”

So what made me walk away? Once the initial internal drive wore off, I simply lacked the motivation to keep going. Now I know myself well enough to know I could attack these anew and brute force them into being—and to be honest, I will most likely revisit the majority of them to see them to completion, but at this point I just don’t want to work on a project that I don’t love. Why? If you follow agents and editors very closely at all, the single common trait for all manuscripts they acquire seems to be their undying love for that manuscript. If that’s the case, how can I put forth a manuscript that I can’t get behind with the whole of my passion?

I can’t. Which leads me to how to maximize my writing time. These unfinished manuscripts I’m alluding to aren’t just a couple thousand words. I may be fifteen, twenty, or even thirty thousand words in. (Yes, I know I should finish them. I will.) But until then, I’ve found a better way to make sure I’m invested.

We all have passions—topics or ideas that hold our attention in a book, movie, documentary, show, article, anything. So what I did was make a list of those things, whatever they were. For me, among other things, my list contains aliens, monsters, and mysterious treasure. Soooo, I try to write stories that contain a combination of elements on my list. By doing this, I know I will be more invested in my book, AND knowing I’m not alone in those passions, I know some readers will be drawn to those things as well.

Now you may say, “Right but what do you do when you’re done? You just can’t keep going off of that list, especially if it’s a short list.” To that I would say, you’d be surprised. Brandon Sanderson, in his outstanding writing lectures (start here) says “Writing is not about inspiration.” (I know. I know. “Isn’t this post about inspiration?!” –bear with me.) He says that ideas can be arranged and rearranged in any number of ways to create interesting and intriguing manuscripts.

He goes on to say that ideas are a dime a dozen, it’s practice and skill that make them work. Having said that I’ve learned I’m more likely to work on my skill and continue to practice if I’m working on something I love. Furthermore, the more passion I have for a project, the more willing I am to push through the plot holes that will inevitably arise and apply the needed inspiration to those areas that might otherwise keep the work from being seen to completion.

In closing, what I’m doing is fulfilling the advice given by the highly prolific Stephen King when he says: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” Sit down, make a list of your interests/passions, and you might be surprised at how freely inspiration comes when your ideas are grounded in what you already love.

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