You've made the perfect cup of tea (or coffee), you've settled in to write, and the blank page and blinking cursor mock you.
Don't worry, it happens to the best of us. Whoever works at the Inspiration factory of your mind must have gone on strike, because they definitely did not show up for work today.
But other days, you sit down to write and the words pour forth as if you've broken the Hoover Dam of your mind. Those days, inspiration strikes you and you have no choice but to try to surf on the waves and keep up with it all.
In the last week, both of these things have happened to me (the second leading to over 6k words written in a single 24 hour period—I know, I was shocked, too).
So what should we do when inspiration either strikes or goes on strike?
The first answer is easy enough. If inspiration is there—you have the words, you have the motivation, you have the desire—jump on it. Don't let that wave pass you by without diving in to body surf if you have to. It doesn't happen all that often, so you need to seize the moment and write, or outline, as the case may be, EVEN IF it means putting a different project on hold. (That's the benefit of working on multiple projects at once: you're bound to feel inspired about one of them, and then you make progress on something every day.)
But what about when inspiration seems to go on strike? What do you do then?
You do your best. Instead of sitting there trying to form words out of nothing, put fresh words in. Read a book on writing (I always find that learning about writing throws a little more fuel on the fire. Talking about writing makes me want to go write, as well). Read something in your genre. Putting in what you want to put out will make it easier to put out what you'd meant to.
If you're so tired and brain dead that you can't read another word—this, also, happens to the best of us, especially when our profession requires a lot of reading—find a movie or TV show in your genre that might spark some ideas for your plot. Just be careful not to copy them.
Writing, whether inspired or not, is similar to water on a beach. When inspiration hits, it's high tide in hurricane season. When inspiration stays away, it's low tide in the calmest time of the year. But even at the calmest time of the year, there are still waves. The water comes into shore and goes back out to sea. In order to continue having things to put out in your writing, you need to keep putting things in.
That's why it's vital to engage with your genre. Not because you learn the competition or see what's selling and hot in the market (though those are also helpful things to know), but because you have a bucket of words inside you that, if allowed to empty because no more water was put in it, won't let you take any more water out.
If you'd like someone to help you stir up some of those thoughts and help you figure out your plot, I'd love to consult with you. Check out the services page for my rates and how to schedule a time. Have a different writing-related question you'd like me to address in a blog post? Let me know on the contact page, and I'll see what I can do.
J. J. Hanna is a Professional Writing major at Taylor University. In her spare time she creates YouTube Videos and Comics, and practices Karate at a local dojo. If you have a writing question, she'd love to hear from you! She is also looking for freelancing work, so if you have editing, beta reading, or writing needs, or would simply like to chat in a consultation, please let her know. Like what you see and want to get more content like this, or have your specific questions answered? Check out how you can support her on Patreon for as little as $3 a month.
This week's YouTube video was an interview with a fellow writer and friend, Hope Bolinger, who's debut YA novel Den (a creative retelling of the story of Daniel) is coming out June 3, 2019. Watch the interview for more information on the book and her writing life.