This week, as promised, I’m re-visiting inspiration. Where does inspiration come from? How do you find inspiration when it’s not finding you?
This weekend, my flatmates and I threw a salsa party.
(No, 21 year old me did not think my idea of ‘fun’ in my late twenties would be a salsa party, but here we are).
So, not only am I still recovering from the combination of alcohol, late-night exercise and three hours sleep, I’m also reeling from the endless inspiration you get from a night like that. When I say “a night like that”, it’s not something easy to explain, although I am completely sure it will turn up in my creative writing one day.
One of my favourite things about being an immigrant in one of the most international cities in Europe is that there were people from all over the world at this party. I was the only British person (I often am, and it becomes very obvious very quickly from the way that my friends (lovingly) make fun of my accent). In fact, I can count on one hand the number of British people I’ve met here in the last year and a half.
Having fifteen different cultures in the same room at once is something you could write a book on (and, maybe I will one day). Everybody you talk to has a different opinion, different perspectives, and equally different things in common. But, If I keep talking about this, I’ll start veering in the direction of Bea the Bud’s column this week (spoiler alert, it’s called: What’s the Sexiest Nationality?), so I’ll leave the juicy stories to her.
I will just say this: dancing exacerbates everything. I’m not sure I could put my finger on why. Maybe it’s because everyone who decides to start dancing has to be at least a little outgoing. Maybe it’s because we all have something to help break the ice, or maybe it’s just the closeness that fosters a sense of intimacy.
Clearly, describing the unique interactions you find in a social circle like mine is not my forte today, but luckily, that’s not what I’m here to talk about.
I’m here to talk about inspiration.
Read my last post on inspiration…
When Inspiration Strikes
I often see people post on Twitter that their goal is to write 1,000 words in a day (or, less often, 2,000, or 3,000).
The day after our salsa party, I wrote 2,000 words in 34 minutes. (I know this because I sent a message to a friend right before I started writing. When I finished, I saw my word count and thought: woah, this must be some kind of record).
Of course, this doesn’t happen every time I sit down to write; actually, it happened because I was hit by a sudden surge of inspiration. I talked about this a little in my infamous article on writing and Chat GPT. That was one of the first times I’d had this “sudden burst of inspiration” for an article rather than for a story, and it took me by surprise. Again, I wrote the whole thing in under an hour.
When inspiration strikes, for me, I finally understand the phrase “itching to do something”. Having inspiration, but no way to let it out, is like an itch in your brain. It’s a constant bother to my thoughts and often gets in the way of other tasks.
Sometimes, if I’m really not able to stop and write, I have to start writing in my head and hope that I’ll remember everything by the time I make it to my keyboard. Okay, that last part sounds loopy, even to me, but this is what I mean when I say it feels like scratching an itch. Sometimes you really can’t stop it.
Read more from our writers room…
How to Find Inspiration When It’s Not Coming to You
Inspiration can come from just about anywhere. For me, it often comes from my real life (hence the ultra-fast short story I wrote the day after a lot of socialising).
But, what do you do when you need inspiration and you just can’t find it?
Maybe it’s been weeks since you wrote, and you just want to flex the muscle. Maybe you know what you want to write, but you don’t know how to start. Maybe you’re just a little stuck on a certain part of your story and need a little inspiration to keep going.
How do you make inspiration come to you?
For me, I get bored. (Well… I try.)
It is well documented that the best way to feel inspired is to let yourself be bored. And, well, this is not something that I’m good at. I like to fill up my time, whether it’s with the magazine or a dance event or a language class or something; I don’t like to do nothing.
And, I do think that that impacts my ability to be inspired. (Luckily that’s not so much of a problem for me right now, with several book ideas still stuck in my brain and no time to write them down!).
My top tip for anyone struggling for inspiration is to let yourself be bored. Turn off the music, the podcast, the TV, tiktok, whatever it is you’re using to keep your mind occupied these days. Turn it off. Whilst you’re washing the dishes or cleaning your apartment, or walking from one place to another, look around and allow your mind to wander.
Allow yourself to wonder where that person across the street is rushing to. Allow yourself to imagine what it would be like to work in that coffee shop, or how your life might follow a different path if you took a different street to your normal route.
I really can’t stress this enough; the less you fill your mind with things, the more it will find things to fill it.
Don’t go looking too hard for inspiration; allow yourself to relax, and it will come to you.