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. This has been pivotal in the lives of each of the founders of this 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.

This post first appeared on Part-Time Novel.com

Do you have tips for getting inspired? Share below.

Announcing a Reading with Susie Finkbeiner

Attendees of the Jot Conference will recognize Susie Finkbeiner. She’s worked the registration table and faithfully attended the conference for years. But in addition to being a wonderful helper and friend of Jot, Susie is a published author.

Her most recent book, A Cup of Dust, is a novel set in the midst of the dust bowl.

Ten-year-old Pearl Spence is a daydreamer, playing make-believe to escape life in Oklahoma’s Dust Bowl in 1935. The Spences have their share of misfortune, but as the sheriff’s family, they’ve got more than most in this dry, desolate place. They’re who the town turns to when there’s a crisis or a need―and during these desperate times, there are plenty of both, even if half the town stands empty as people have packed up and moved on.

Pearl is proud of her loving, strong family, though she often wearies of tracking down her mentally impaired older sister or wrestling with her grandmother’s unshakable belief in a God who Pearl just isn’t sure she likes.

Then a mysterious man bent on revenge tramps into her town of Red River. Eddie is dangerous and he seems fixated on Pearl. When he reveals why he’s really there and shares a shocking secret involving the whole town, dust won’t be the only thing darkening Pearl’s world.

Susie will be reading a chapter from A Cup of Dust at the Jot Conference on Friday, September 9th at Baker Book House, 2768 East Paris Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546. Please join us!

3 Questions with novelist S.D. Grimm

Sarah GrimmS. D. GRIMM’S first love in writing is young adult speculative fiction. She is represented by Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Agency and her debut novel, Scarlet Moon, is slated to be published in October 2016. (Pre-order a copy here!) When she’s not writing or editing, Sarah enjoys reading (of course!), making clay dragons for her Grimmlies store on Etsy, practicing kickboxing and Brazilian jiu jitsu, training dogs, and doing anything outdoorsy with the family. Her office is anywhere she can curl up with her laptop and at least one large-sized dog.

Sarah is a flash fiction editor for Splickety Magazine. She’ll be speaking on Flash Fiction writing at the upcoming Jot Writers’ Conference (9.9.16).

What is Flash Fiction? Give us a working definition that most people more or less agree on.

Flash fiction is, in its simplest form, a whole story in 1,000 words or less.

Who are your favorite flash writers and why? Who should we be reading?

Okay, this is really hard, and I’m going to be very biased because I work for Splickety Publishing Group and love all three of our magazines. We have had some really talented flash fiction writers as well as some talented featured authors who have tried their hand at writing flash fiction. It’s not as easy as it sounds. But if you’re interested in flash fiction, I highly recommend checking out Splickety Magazine, Splickety Love, or Havok. (if you want to include our website, feel free www.splickety.com)

Give us a teaser of your Jot Conference talk. What can attendees expect?

Dabbling in flash fiction has a lot of hidden benefits for writers. I’ll be discussing how to write flash fiction that sells as well as how writing flash fiction is just plain good for your writing career.

3 Questions with novelist Aric Davis

Aric DavisARIC DAVIS is the author of seven books: From Ashes Rise: A Novel of Michigan, Nickel Plated, A Good and Useful Hurt, The Black Death: A Dead Man Novella, Rough Men, Breaking Point, The Fort and Tunnel Vision. He is married with one daughter and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he worked for sixteen years as a body piercer; he now writes full time. A punk rock aficionado, Davis does anything he can to increase awareness of a good band. He likes weather cold enough to need a sweatshirt but not a coat, and friends who wear their hearts on their sleeves. In addition to reading and writing, he also enjoys roller coasters, hockey, and a good cigar. All of Aric’s books are available on Amazon.com.

Aric will be interviewed as part of the next Jot Writers’ Conference (9.9.16). I (Andy) asked him a couple of questions recently about writing fiction and alternative publishing options. Take a look.

What are two important skills every fiction writer must possess? What are the things that seem universal among great fiction writers?

The first skill that I believe every writer should possess is the ability to take a beating. When I was trying to get published I wrote six manuscripts and suffered over 400 rejections, but if I would have stopped I’d have never seen my work in print.

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3 Questions with Tom Springer

Tom Springer 2015 300dpiTOM SPRINGER is an essayist, journalist, and environmentalist. He has written about nature and outdoor travel for newspapers and magazines such as Backpacker, Michigan Out-of-Doors, andNotre Dame, and his nature-themed commentaries have aired on several National Public Radio programs. His collection of essays, Looking For Hickories: The Forgotten Wildness of the Rural Midwest (University of Michigan Press), was named a Michigan Notable Book in 2009. Springer holds a master’s degree in environmental journalism from Michigan State University. He lives near Three Rivers, Michigan.

He’ll also be speaking at the upcoming Jot Writers’ Conference (9.9.16) so I thought I would ask him a few questions about writing creative nonfiction.

What’s an important skill a writer should possess if they want to write creative nonfiction?

A good nonfiction writer should know a little about everything and a lot about something. In other words, be a generalist — an omnivorous reader with many interests — but have also one area where you specialize. It could be sustainable agriculture, jazz music, infectious diseases, contemplative prayer or astronomy. Whatever. The point here is to communicate your passion and knowledge in a way that’s enlightening, without being too technical. Nonfiction writers should introduce people to other worlds in a way that’s accessible and makes them want to learn more.

Who are your favorite essay writers and why? Who should we be reading?

My preferences tend toward essayists who focus on the intersect between people and the natural world. The seminal essayist for me is Aldo Leopold, whose deceptively short and simple “A Sand County Alamanac,” established the field of ecology and the impetus for the environmental movement. I also like Scott Russell Sanders, whose essays combine memoir and natural history, with a strong sense of community and place-based work (carpentry, agriculture, homemaking). For beauty and evocative writing, I’d recommend Barbara Kingsolver, a novelist whose nonfiction work resonates with the same literary qualities as her fiction does.

Give us a teaser of your Jot Conference talk. What can attendees expect?

During my session, we will discuss my basic formula for writing a personal essay: facts + firsthand experience + “wisdom synthesis.” If someone in the crowd is willing, we will on the spot take an excerpt of knowledge and experience from their life and shaped into an outline for an essay. Also, there will be free homemade cookies.

A Jot Conference Book is Coming!

A new book for writers will be released in the fall of 2017–and it’s born out of the Jot Writers’ Conference!

The book will be a collection of essays on writing from past and future Jot Writers’ Conference presenters. Though book titles often get changed multiple times during the publication process, the working title for this project is Jot That Down: Encouraging Essays for New Writers. 

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The Jot Writers’ Conference Returns! 9.9.16

Friday, September 9th, 2016

FREE Admission – Event begins at 7pm

Open to all writers. Rookies. Veterans. And everyone in between.
Open to writers of any genre.

The Jot Writers’ Conference is a biannual, one-night event for writers held each spring and fall in West Michigan. It features short, TED-style talks on various aspects of writing and publishing. Admission is free. Come for the inspiring speakers. Stay for the coffee and the chance to meet other writers.

Or just find a nook in the bookstore and write all evening. Don’t worry. We totally get it. 🙂

LOCATION

Baker Book House
2768 East Paris Avenue
Grand Rapids, MI 49546

GUEST SPEAKERS

Aric DavisARIC DAVIS is the author of seven books: From Ashes Rise: A Novel of Michigan, Nickel Plated, A Good and Useful Hurt, The Black Death: A Dead Man Novella, Rough Men, Breaking Point, The Fort and Tunnel Vision. He is married with one daughter and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he worked for sixteen years as a body piercer; he now writes full time. A punk rock aficionado, Davis does anything he can to increase awareness of a good band. He likes weather cold enough to need a sweatshirt but not a coat, and friends who wear their hearts on their sleeves. In addition to reading and writing, he also enjoys roller coasters, hockey, and a good cigar.

 

 
Sarah Grimm

S. D. GRIMM’S first love in writing is young adult speculative fiction. She is represented by Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Agency and her debut novel, Scarlet Moon, is slated to be published in October 2016. When she’s not writing or editing, Sarah enjoys reading (of course!), making clay dragons for her Grimmlies store on Etsy, practicing kickboxing and Brazilian jiu jitsu, training dogs, and doing anything outdoorsy with the family. Her office is anywhere she can curl up with her laptop and at least one large-sized dog.

 

 

 

Tom Springer 2015 300dpiTOM SPRINGER is an essayist, journalist, and environmentalist. He has written about nature and outdoor travel for newspapers and magazines such as Backpacker, Michigan Out-of-Doors, and Notre Dame, and his nature-themed commentaries have aired on several National Public Radio programs. His collection of essays, Looking For Hickories: The Forgotten Wildness of the Rural Midwest (University of Michigan Press), was named a Michigan Notable Book in 2009. Springer holds a master’s degree in environmental journalism from Michigan State University. He lives near Three Rivers, Michigan.