What to Do When Inspiration Leaves?

6 Steps To Get You Going Again

“How do you stay inspired long enough to write a book?” my friend Anne asked.

“You don’t,” I said.

“So what happens when you’re not inspired?” she asked.

“You struggle.” I said.

Inspiration
  • Stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity.
  • The condition of being so stimulated.
  • Something, such as a sudden creative act or idea, that is inspired.

For years I’ve been dancing with the creative spirit that gives me some amazing moments, and then takes flight to leave me swinging in the wind, without a thought in my head.

Having just published my second book, Freeing Your Radical Hero: Fighting the Impostor Mindset, I am fresh from the struggle. If you’re feeling sluggish in your work, here are some suggestions to get you going:

Go back to your “Why.”

Simon Sinek presents a simple but revolutionary model in his book, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action. You can also watch his TED Talk, which is one of the most popular of all time. In essence, Sinek teaches us that what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it, are less important than why you’re doing it. Your “Why” is the soul of your motivation. Capture it and put it on a sticky note near your computer.

Ease up, take a break.

Feeling stuck could mean that life is happening and you’re overwhelmed. If you’re like me, in addition to my creative projects, my life includes a “real job.” I run a business, teach and handle client engagements that pay the rent. When I’m overwhelmed I might be worried about a difficult client, a family member or one of my dogs. Occasionally you have to give yourself permission to take a break, tend to life and come back next week. You might need to get some exercise to put some oxygen in your brain.

Sometimes the truth depends upon a walk around a lake. Wallace Stevens

Don’t dance with more than one creative project.

When I’m running out of gas, there’s usually a smaller project that tries to seduce me. An article or some class materials that are suddenly more attractive. Attractive, because I could see some immediate, fresh results instead of trudging through the mud. Unfortunately, your best work will always include struggle. If you avoid it by project-hopping, you’ll wind up with a bunch of unfinished projects. Trust me.

Let go of the parts that don’t work.

There’s an old piece of writer’s advice that suggests you have to learn to “kill your darlings.” In other words, you have to get rid of your favorite passages when they don’t fit, for the clarity of the work. (*Source: first attributed to Arthur Quiller-Couch in his 1914 Cambridge lecture “On Style.”)

So many times I’ve found myself straining to push a piece of writing into the book. A concept, story or some research that I really like. It’s painful, but letting go will help you move forward. Otherwise you’ll off-road and waste good energy on trying to make it work.

Tackle a small piece of the project.

When I feel completely out of mojo, I tackle something I can do easily. I’ll write the dedication or the acknowledgments. I’ll research a term, a metaphor or an author who adds something to the conversation. When I meet that small goal, it helps to get me moving again.

Find fellow writers.

Writing is a solitary adventure and can be lonely at times. I’ve found that fellow writers can inspire and commiserate with you. My good friend and spirited author Tamela Rich hosted a writing group that helped plant the idea for my book and TEDx Talk on the Impostor Mindset. If you’re not getting out of your “writing nest” very much, twitter hashtags like #amwriting can connect you with other creatives who are right there with you, slogging it out.

What to Do When Inspiration Leaves? 6 Steps To Get You Going Again

Why Do You Write?

For me, writing is a magnificent obsession. Magnificent when the right piece comes through you and falls on the page. An obsession because when I ask myself, “Why are you doing this?” the answer is always, “I have to.”

In his Huffington Post article, “Why Do Writers Write?” Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, tweeted the question, “Why do you write?” Here are just a few of the responses:

peajayar
I write because it hurts when I don’t.

EFSlattery
[I write] to make sense of things.

ShayneParkinson
If I go too long without writing, I turn into someone whose company I don’t enjoy. I need to write.

MoriahJovan
I write because I can’t paint.

annthewriter
I write because I can’t help it. It’s as much a reflex as breathing, and equally essential.

kittent
I write because I don’t like to talk.

Good luck on your Magnificent Obsession!

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Lou Solomon

Lou Solomon is the founder of Interact. She is a TEDx speaker and a member of the adjunct faculty at the McColl School of Business at Queens University of Charlotte. Her articles have appeared in Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur.com, CEO.com, and Fast Company.