Inspiration is a tricky thing. Based on what I’ve read by, heard from and discussed with other creative types, I’m pretty lucky. On the whole, I get more than my fair share of ideas and I’m usually able to see them through to a something resembling a finished product. I have not, to my knowledge, suffered writer’s block, a condition in which all writing is supposedly impossible. At worst, I’ve experienced the occasional bout of project block, where a given project is fighting me, but other writing endeavors continue to work just fine.
From time to time, though, I hit a stretch where I’m just not energetic. Everything feels like work, no matter how much I like a project. I tend to think of these stretches as my non-inspired periods. I can still write, but it’s all very cold-blooded and painfully grueling. It wears me down, which just exacerbates the problem. So, what do you do when you find yourself in these kinds of straights? You need to look outside yourself. I know that’s a pretty counter-intuitive mindset for most writers. We’re solitary beasts, roaming the prairies of the imagination like wolves on the hunt. Yet, looking outside myself has been the most effective strategy for me.
I think part of it has to do with placing yourself in a larger context. Not to be unkind to my fellow writers, but we can pretty a pretty self-involved group of people who overestimate the scope of our own issues. The truth of the matter is that there’s always going to be people who are struggling a lot harder than we’re struggling. Sometimes it’s your neighbor, and sometimes it’s a celebrity. So, to that end, I recommend the following two books. You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day and The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (In Real Life) by Chris Hardwick. Both are readily available on Amazon and at other book selling-type places.
Wait, you say, what about (insert tragispirational memoir/biography/autobiography here)? Yes, I’m sure those are tragic/inspiring, but I assume I’m mostly talking to other creative types here. Day and Hardwick’s books both speak to those who are actively involved in the creative spheres, as well as to the geek/nerd/dork set which seems to be a nearly one-to-one with the writer set. Both Day and Hardwick talk about their struggles with mental health, anxiety, self-doubt and finding ways to continue being creative. In short, a perfect inspirational soup for the soul/world-weary creative type at low ebb.
Anytime I start feeling drag-ass about my books, short stories, and other projects, I go back to those books. They help me put my creative troubles into a broader context, to see which ones are just me being a melodrama queen (most of them) and which are actually problems that require some real attention. Most of the time, I realize that my big issue is being stuck in that awful middle phase of a project. You know the phase I’m talking about. It’s the spot where you’ve already poured a ton of time and energy into an idea, it’s nowhere near done, and you’ve got to put a ton more time and energy into it before you can show it off to people. Yeah, that phase makes me feel tired.
That said, it’s not a real issue in terms of the work. It’s a psychological, rather than creative, roadblock. If you’re like me, though, you need something to jumpstart your perspective. I use those books to do that.
How about you all? Any tips or tricks for getting over low-inspiration periods?