Do you wait for inspiration to strike? Or do you get to work despite the lack of it, determined to put something down on the paper even if it turns up to be only crud? When I was a newer writer I admit to the former. I would wait and wait for days, weeks, even months to be inspired by something I’d read, watched, or heard about. Sometimes even a song. Those days led to bursts of writing, but they were just that: sketches of what might be, a painting half-finished. Because you truly can’t finish something unless you keep at it.
As I grew in my craft, I heard over and over the advice to plant your butt in the chair and write. It was the only way to go. And you know what? They were right. The more you sit there, trying to create something from scratch, forcing yourself to put one word down at a time, works. I’m not saying that these sentences will shine. Heck, they may not even be needed, or make it into the final draft. But they mean, you’ve accomplished something today and that’s a plus.
When I begin writing for the day, I often go back and read out loud the chapter I’m working on. I listen for mistakes, something that throws me off, an area where I could’ve expanded or let go. These actions get me ready to work. Because as I’m reviewing yesterday or this morning’s work, I get back into the mood I had when writing/creating it. It becomes a stepping stone from one place to another.
I know it’s not easy. If everyone could do it, they would. But the gift is down there, inside of you, why not bring it forth and polish it? A bit of no getting up from the chair until you move forward never hurt anybody. The seed you planted when you began the story, the what if needs to be watered, nurtured for further growth. If you wait for the sun to shine, you’re not giving it your all. You have to get in there and build a greenhouse. Take it from the first step, to the next, and the next after that until you have a tomato. Tomato equals the results of all your hard work.
So after I read through aloud, I look at what I’ve outlined to happen in this scene. Who the main character in this one is? What are the points I want to get across? What is the inciting incident? And something I’ve recently learned about and which we work towards in a story during the first 25-50 pages, the catalyst (or the turning point in the story, at which the character has to make a major decision and there is no turning back from that action/s.). All this should help get the story to proceed for me. After all, I know where I’m headed and what has to fall into place in order to get there.
Each scene works together to build toward that climax, that end of all ends. And you can get there with a little solid faith in yourself. You’re a writer. What writers do is write. If you’re still waiting for inspiration to strike, it’s going to hold you back from your dreams. You need to sit down, take your craft firmly in hand, and push through the mental block until the words flow and the magic happens. There’s no getting away from being firm on this point with yourself. You’ll see if you follow this advice, your writing will grow in leaps and bounds.
And isn’t that something we all want to happen? To finally write that book that’s inside us? To hold it in our hands? To go on to the next? And the next? Our journey is never easy but it’s definitely worth it. The joy that bubbles up inside you when your characters’ spring to life, how it makes you cry alongside them, quake in fear, keeps you on the edge of your seat until the last page, will help strengthen you for what lies ahead. Since I let go of the waiting, I’ve written eight books (nine counting the one I’m working on at the moment). Each a step across the pond. When I reach that final step to publishing I’ll know, it wasn’t inspiration that brought me to it, but good old-fashioned hard work.