Sometimes, when you sit down to write, ideas and words flow – you find yourself in the zone. Other times, it can feel as if you have absolutely nothing to say, and all creativity has left your body. All you want to do is get it back! You search for inspiration in people you love, nature, your favorite books, and even eavesdropping at the coffee shop.
Truth is, inspiration rarely comes from the outside world. The muse lives and breathes inside you, inside each of us and you can call on it anytime – if you know how.
There is always a battle happening inside your head, as a writer. It’s between your internal editor and internal critic. One wants to see you productive and the other determined to hinder your progress. Your internal editor is supportive. Your internal critic is destructive.
When you feel unable to write a decent sentence, it’s usually labeled “writer’s block” – a favorite on your internal critic’s shelf. Writer’s block is real and can be devastating but it doesn’t have to debilitating. To overcome it, you have to understand the source of it. Most writers find themselves blocked for one of more reasons: 1) fear of failure, 2) fear of success, or 3) perfectionism.
Once you identify the source, you can engage the necessary tools to quiet your inner critics crippling voice and set free your inner muse.
Author Jeffrey Deaver (The Bone Collector) believes there is no such thing as writer’s block – only “idea block.” He has a great point: If you don’t know what to write, you can feel like you’re smack in the middle of writer’s block, but that’s not always the case. The real problem may be that you just need to work out your story line or poem more extensively.
If only writing were like flipping a switch. As writers, if we wait until we feel like writing, we may find ourselves never accomplishing much. Here are a few techniques that work for me that you can employ to help keep your momentum:
CREATE CHUNKS OF TIME. We are all busy and struggle to find time to write. Try writing in 15 or 20 minute increments. That’s long enough to read the last paragraph or stanza you’ve written – as a reminder where you left off – and write another paragraph. If you do that three times a day, guess what? You’ve just written a page.
The X Strategy. Anytime you feel as if something you’ve written needs more work, type the letters XXX. You can move on without worrying that a poor word choice or off sentence will be forgotten or neglected. When you’re ready to revise, you can just search the document for every instance of “XXX.”
TRACK WHAT’S NEXT. I never get up from my desk without leaving a note about what I’m going to write next. Sometimes the notes are long and detailed. Other times, it’s a quick couple of words on a post-it note. This allows me to walk away from my project and not have anxiety when I return about what I need to do.
Soon, you’ll develop the confidence and ability to quiet your internal editor. You don’t need a certain person, place or mood to inspire you. Your muse can be found within. It’s been there the whole time. All you have to do is trust yourself and believe in the process.