There are various clever quotes about why inspiration is unnecessary for writing. After all, writing is work. After all, plumbers don’t need to be inspired to do their jobs; they just do their jobs. The same goes for electricians, attorneys, and doctors. And if we wait to write until we’re hit by some magical wand of inspiration, we might never start in the first place.
This is true. Being able to work whether you feel inspired or not is important. It’s a great skill. And yet inspiration is critical, too.
In a piece entitled “Why Inspiration Matters,” Scott Barry Kaufman writes, “Inspiration awakens us to new possibilities by allowing us to transcend our ordinary experiences and limitations. Inspiration propels a person from apathy to possibility, and transforms the way we perceive our own capabilities.” Inspiration sparks creativity, and helps us make progress on our goals, according to Kaufman.
Inspiration also is vital because “an insipid view on life is deadly,” said Susie Herrick, MFT, a licensed psychotherapist and author. “Breathing in beauty is our birthright. It’s what feeds our capacity to see metaphor and synchronicity.”
Inspiration keeps writer and author Nicole Gulotta’s creative life filled with enthusiasm. “It’s exciting to never know where inspiration might come from, which reminds me to keep my senses sharp and pay attention as much as possible.”
Reading provides Gulotta with lots of inspiration. Recently, she’s enjoyed reading Writing as a Path to Awakening by Albert Flynn DeSilver and Good Prose by Tracey Kidder and Richard Todd.
Also, “walking or other gentle exercise really helps get my body and mind relaxed so creativity can easily move around,” said Gulotta, author of Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry, and a blog by the same name.
Movement is key for Sydney Campos, too. Dance and yoga—which are daily rituals—keep her creative energy flowing. She also finds tremendous inspiration in spending time in nature, along with meditation, and energy healing and acupuncture sessions.
For psychologist and writer Ryan Howes, Ph.D, curiosity creates the spark. “There is so much to learn—about people, psychology, and writing itself—that I’ll never run out of material.” He is driven by all sorts of questions—his own and questions from readers and journalists: “Why do we need emotion?” “What really makes therapy work?” “Why don’t therapists talk about themselves?” “How does talking help me feel better?”
“Each question is like a little challenging puzzle that begs to be solved, and writing is simply the method I use to solve it,” said Howes. “I honestly don’t spend much time evaluating whether or not my writing is ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ my goal is simply to provide a coherent answer.”
Tanaaz Chubb, author of numerous books, including The Power of Positive Energy, is inspired by connecting with others and hearing their stories. “Even just the smallest exchanges can inspire me to write about something.”
While writing her book Your Story is Your Power—co-written with Elle Luna—Herrick turned to sappy music. “Like chocolate, the bittersweet twang on the heart brings words to that dreamy poet in my head. Writing is like getting a cat to come to you. A ball of string comes in handy. To get myself to write I had to really pull on my heartstrings.”
For you music, movement and meditation might not work. Because different things inspire different people. Below, you’ll find an assortment of tips to try and experiment with. Ultimately, focus on what stirs your own heart, mind and spirit.
Pretend readers are waiting for your work. “Think about the person who was like you once who found a book that fed their soul and wrote stuff in the margins,” said Herrick. “Imagine them writing you a letter sharing how your [writing] inspired them.”
Follow your bliss. Make time to do things you love every day, said Chubb, creator of Foreverconscious.com, which focuses on all things cosmic and spiritual. Maybe that’s sewing, sketching or tending to your tiny garden. Maybe it’s riding your bike or reading memoirs or listening to history podcasts.
Play as much as you can. “We are all adults running around with these inner children—these storehouses of knowledge, wisdom, inspiration and joy—waiting to be acknowledged so they can be expressed,” said Campos, author of The Empath Experience: What To Do When You Feel Everything. Find activities that feel like play to you.
Follow the crumbs of your curiosity. Pay attention to your questions and observations, which have the potential to become prompts for your writing, said Howes, co-founder of the Mental Health Boot Camp, a 25-day online wellness program that helps people self-reflect, learn to meditate, understand relationships, and develop new habits to navigate life’s challenges. For instance, you observe a co-worker’s peculiar habit or discover a surprising story deep in your family tree, which inspires you to write a short story or magazine article.
Become a channel. Campos suggested “dancing, breathwork and shaking to move energy through your body and prepare yourself to be a true channel for receiving the powerful wisdom you are uniquely designed to express with your incredible voice.”
Switch things up. “Painting in between writing sessions is a great way to give the right brain a rest and allow it to recharge,” Campos said. What can you do to engage different senses when you’re not writing?
Identify your cause or theme. Is there a common theme to your interests and hobbies? Are you passionate about social causes? Do your questions focus on the same subject? As Howes said, “You may have been living according to an inspired purpose without even knowing it. Once you identify it, it’s easier to find inspiration in your projects.”
For instance, years ago, Howes discovered that many of his personal and professional interests revolved around a similar theme: “making mental health accessible to the masses.” “Now my eyes are open for any opportunities to advance this cause, and the opportunities are endless.”
Herrick has a writing-specific learning disability. She’s shy. It took her 13 years to write her first book, which was published when she was 55. Her second book was just published, which she wrote with a broken arm. She underscored the importance of doing it anyway.
In other words, she encouraged readers to pursue their writing regardless of the challenges, obstacles, second guesses and self-doubts—an incredibly inspiring message, whether we’re talking about creating or not.