Remembering what’s outside the “writer zone”

“I feel so uninspired!”

That was me a few minutes ago. I admit – I’ve been sitting at this desk simply dallying for way too long now. I wrote three paragraphs that sounded pretty decent at first, but, when reread, sounded downright boring. So here I am, waving my white flag and surrendering to my lack of inspiration.

The beginning of my writing process used to start out this way. I sat down somewhere quiet, let my cup of coffee slowly turn cold, stared off into space for long periods of time, and hoped that somehow, anyhow, I would feel a sudden, thrilling spark of inspiration. That last bit almost never happened. Even when it did, I still doubted that the inspiration was really good enough. What if my idea wasn’t actually a smart one? What if it was just an idea I’d pick up somewhere and thought I was good enough to think of? Whose voice am I writing in then? The obsessing normally came to a halt only when I glanced at the clock and realized how much time I’d wasted mostly spacing out and entertaining an immature hope.

After giving up on “willing the creative juices to flow,” I’d then force myself to stop my wishful thinking and to actually get some real work done. And that is where the deadline comes in. As much as I disliked deadlines, I slowly came to realize that without them, I probably wouldn’t have been driven enough to stop dallying around “waiting for a stroke of genius” and instead to simply buckle down and work.

Inspiration no longer holds the same meaning to me. Now, I am a lot less critical of ideas that go through my head. True, sometimes the most ridiculous ideas flit by. But I trust that somewhere in the seemingly messy jumble is at least one good idea. And where I once naively thought of inspiration as only coming from what I already know, I now know that inspiration lies everywhere I am willing to seek it out.

So now I’m a lot more willing to throw my hands up and to admit that staying up all night just to mull and agonize over a topic I’m writing about isn’t going to help. Instead, I make myself walk home more slowly and let my mind wander. Sometimes I catch myself thinking the most ridiculous things and I wonder if anyone else often feels as if he/she has crazy-sounding monologues. But, sometimes, in little surprising ways, I’ve found that my seemingly useless recollections of a funny conversation I had or a particular phrase someone used can trigger the best ideas that I can’t wait to put onto paper.

In an odd way, I suppose a lack of inspiration is really simply a personal mental block that tells me to stop obsessing over what I’m trying so hard to write and instead keep myself out of a writing mind frame so I don’t forget that I can have less coherent, strangely structured, and grammatically incorrect thoughts. What a relief.

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