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Three Tactics to Stop Letting Inspiration Rule You by Emily Wenstrom (reposted from the Write Practice)
At the opening of Odyssey, Homer appealed to his muse for the inspiration to tell his story. Shakespeare did the same thing in a number of his plays. Let’s face it, when it comes to art, inspiration is the queen on high.
And sure, those moments when inspiration strikes are exhilarating. But let’s face it, the muses are tempestuous and unreliable. Inspiration is demanding, pushy, and withholding in turns to keep us under their thumb.
The muses keep us up late when we know we should be sleeping, strike in the shower where we can’t reach a pen, and then abandon us for weeks without a word.
But you don’t have to be inspiration’s beck and call any longer. In fact, breaking free is a lot easier than you might think. Try out these three tactics and see for yourself.
Work at the same time, consistently.
Our brains are made for habit. If you put in the time to establish a consistent behavior pattern (science says it takes about three weeks), the force of habit begins to take over, and your brain will respond by getting into writer mode in your designated writing time.
You don’t have to write every single day for this to work, just set a regular routine for yourself—I recommend at least one block of time a week. Then, guard that time with your life.
Show up no matter what, even if it’s just you and the blank screen and utter silence. Don’t worry, the words will come.
Keep an idea log.
One of the frustrating things about writing is the time required to take an idea from conception to completion. But you can also use this to your advantage.
Ideas take just seconds to think up. They accumulate much faster than finished works, so when it’s time to start a new project, the only question you should ever have is, “which one do I pick up next?”
So when inspiration does hit, encourage it by taking swift action—write it down and store it somewhere safe. Then all those pieces of inspiration in one place, ready to spring into a story whenever you’re ready for it.
There’s a lot of different ways to do this, from the classic pocket journal to apps like Evernote. Personally, I use my smartphone to email them to myself.
Brilliant creative through the ages have been known for their quirky rituals. Nikola Tesla had dinner at the Waldorf every night at 8 p.m. James Joyce woke at 10 a.m. each day, then laid in bed an hour after waking up each morning.
You can do this, too.
Maybe not the sleeping ‘til 10 necessarily, but you should find your own ways to trigger in your mind that it’s now writing time. Do this consistently every time you write, and you’ll find that over time it gets easier to settle into writing mode and get the words on the page, regardless of when or where you are.
Inspiration Rules, But So Do You
It’s as easy as that—a little consistency in your schedule, a notebook in your pocket, a trigger to get your mind in gear. Put these tricks to work, and you’ll be on your way to taking charge of your creativity for the long haul.
And finally, you can stop sitting around waiting for inspiration to drop by. The better and more consistently you stick them, the more you’ll find that inspiration shows up exactly when you want it to, freeing you to reclaim your creative time and get some real writing done.
Consider the moments when you’ve had your big aha moments in the past—what was consistent around them? A time of day? A state of mind? A place? A mood?
“Antonio,” a voice says. It is raspy yet authoritative, and is at once distantly familiar to me, the way hearing an old song can resurrect a forgotten feeling and a glimpse of who you once were.
The shadows of his face, the way his cheeks sank like pools and his eyes floated above dark wells, which usually seemed indicative of his ill health and hard living, now seemed fitting – a tribute to death.
I am such a sucker for his coffee eyes with their dark lashes, like a ring of black flames. I think I’m trying to read my future in those eyes – like they are black tea, and the leaves in their depths hold some secret for me.
The Customs officer is wearing a brown uniform and has sideburns. The skin on his hands is thin and his veins stand out like a topographic mapping of a mountain chain.
The driver takes us down potholed streets, in and out of other taxis and cars and government vehicles. Buildings in every color line up to greet us like little girls dressed up for an Easter parade.