“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” Stephen King
The creative process is a difficult one to master. We sit with our canvas, page or computer staring blankly at us. It taunts one minute, motivates the next and then completely blocks us. The reasons for this may vary, but there are times when it seems that my work is working against me.
Perhaps you’ve been there - no matter how strong the ideas are in our heads, there are times when it feels impossible to get them out of the murky realm of our brain. Some wait for the Muse to strike, but she is unpredictable. It is time to cut the tether to her will. We must build the path to inspiration ourselves. It takes hard work and focus, but the result is well worth the effort.
The above quote is a favorite of mine because it illustrates an important principle: we get back what we put in. Waiting for inspiration to strike results in frustration and a weak product. Getting to work gives us an active seat in the endeavor we have undertaken. We set the course. Inspiration is not something you should wait for. Do the work, seek it out as you go along and you will find it. For many, an awareness of this is not innate. It is something I have had to learn along the way of my trial-and-error filled life. There was once a time when I gave my creative control to the whims of inspiration. As I noticed more and more blocks to my work and my progress coming up, I realized I needed to find another solution. The answer was simple, but the execution of it was not - hard work, focus and perspective are important keys to developing your craft.
The creative process is not as glamorous as it is portrayed. The romance and beauty lay within the result. Sometimes you have to separate the two. In one instance you need to focus on the big picture, or the story you are telling. In another, you need to focus in on the details and your technique. If you’re in it for the long haul, learning how to shift your perspective is essential. Relying so heavily on the force of the so-called Muse makes it more difficult to do so. In order to create anything of value, you must cultivate a strong work ethic. This means pushing yourself instead of waiting for motivation. There will be a struggle with this, which is why people have developed innumerable tools to lend support.
MY TOOLS OF THE TRADE
For writers, one tool you can use is the NaNoWriMo event. Every November NaNoWriMo releases a program that assists writers who need an extra boost of motivation. It is a nonprofit which encourages authors of all ages by offering tools, resources, virtual retreats and a community base to help you reach your goals. The goal of this annual event is to write 50,000 words by November 30th. Along the way, you can earn badges in both writing and personal achievement. There are also prizes for those who reach different milestones in their work. For the past three years, I have participated in this program. Although I have not yet reached the 50,000 mark within this timeframe, I’ve found that it’s a good way to jumpstart any project I have had a hard time starting.
Another helpful resource is your local library. We have many books and tools to assist in the process. The following list will aid in your research, developing technique and transforming your ideas into great works:
Find all of these resources on our Digital Library page, home to all of our online resources!
Explora Research Center: From here you can research any number of topics ranging from Arts and Literature to Science and Math, giving you an edge on creating a rich environment in your works.
Global Road Warrior: My personal favorite. I use this tool in learning about different cultures from around the world in order to better inform my writing.
Literary Reference Center: Full-text classics, author biographies and literary publications.
History Reference Center: Full-text content of historical documents, biographies of historical figures, photos, maps, video and history reference.
Novelist Plus: One of the greatest tools in writing is, in fact, reading. At Novelist Plus, you can find the next novel or collection of short stories to feed your imagination and add to your range of technique.
- To write well, you must read.The following list are a few good tools to get you started:
- Now Write! is a series of books with exercises provided by today’s best writers and teachers.
- Now Write! Mysteries
- Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror
- Now Write! Screenwriting
- Now Write! Nonfiction
- The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life by Harold Bloom: An analysis of Bloom’s favorite poets, what makes their works great, how it comes to be and why it matters today. This book will assist you in analyzing the works you read and how they affect your writing.
- Spunk & Bite: a Writer’s Guide to Punchier, More Engaging Language & Style by Arthur Plotnik: This is an excellent tool if you are looking for a way to inject more personality into your writing, creating a style that will engage your readers and propel your stories forward.
- The Sense of Style: the Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker: As you develop your style and techniques, it is important to consider your audience. This book will help you to appeal to readers of this generation and beyond.
- The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner: This is an essential tool in creating a bridge between art and commerce. It serves as a user’s manual showing writers how to be more productive in the creative process, as well as navigating the current climate of the publishing industry.
- Advice to Writers: A Compendium of Quotes, Anecdotes, and Writerly Wisdom from a Dazzling Array or Literary Lights by Jon Winokur: Despite the staggering length of the title, the succinct style of this book offers a wide array of quotes from more than four hundred celebrated authors on topics ranging from passive voice and character development to promotion and publicity.
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King: In this darkly funny and reflective memoir, iconic author Stephen King offers his first-hand experiences as a writer and insights into the craft.
- Wild Women, Wild Voices: Writing from Your Authentic Wildness by Judy Reeves: In a style filled with empathy, Reeves offers a practical and intuitive guide to distilling our experiences and the stages in our lives into creative expression through inspiring activities, exercises and writing prompts.
There is no special place one can go to find ideas. They are made up of many different components, things we discover along the path of exploration. Just one tool will not do the job. Every piece of creative work is an amalgam of determination, focus, perspective and influence. The thing is this - inspiration is the world filtered through the imagination. As we become more receptive to this, ideas begin to flow naturally. With every person we meet, book we read, film we watch and song we listen to, our imagination grows. It is our duty as creative minds to mold this force with our hands, to form it into an expression of our view of the world and to communicate it whoever may relate to it.
Whitney Taitano, Circulation Desk Attendant