You’re the meaning in my life, you’re the inspiration.
I don’t think I’m the only one who experiences this feeling. Writing is my passion. I love thinking of stories, writing about things I like, creating worlds, stories and characters. But when it comes to actually putting those on paper, I struggle. For years I would blame a lack of inspiration. “It’ll come back to me eventually,” I would say.
But it never came back. Last year, 2020, I didn’t start writing again because I magically found the inspiration to write all these stories. The real, less glamorous, reason was me sitting down behind my computer and forcing myself to write. As I’ve talked about before, I started tracking my word count and setting goals for myself. Initially this turned into “cheating” a lot, where I would churn out something easy and then probably delete it again a few days later when I realized I had no use for it. But as time went on, I started to deliver more and more output, and I even noticed an increase of quality. To keep this up, I set a standard of 1000 words a day for 2021. As of writing this, on March 16th, I have kept up with that goal, and a quick look at my current word count for the year shows that I’m at just over 80.000 words. Compare that to the 100.000 words I wrote last year, and it’s a world of difference. Last year I wrote a draft version for The Necromancer’s Daughter that went all the way up to chapter 10. This year I’ve written 9 full chapters already, and I’m planning to have chapters 11, and even 12 done by the end of the month. Obviously the pace will slow down at the point where the story hits new territory and I need to develop things as opposed to draw from past writings.
At this point you might be thinking, that’s discipline you got there, not inspiration, and you would be right. I’m getting to it, please, have a little patience, yee of little faith.
I think discipline and inspiration are not, and should not be mutually exclusive. I often think back to this Calvin & Hobbes comic panel:
Retrieved from web.mit.edu
There’s something to this comic. Inspiration comes to you when you sit down to write. It doesn’t always come to you when you sit down, but if you want for inspiration to hit and don’t sit down until that moment arrives, you might be in for a long wait. I will gladly admit that a good 50%, if not more, of what I write either gets scrapped completely or heavily edited before it’s ever released. Writing is art, and I think that’s true for any sort of writing. But writing is also practice, discipline and making concessions. No story will ever be perfect, and a lack of inspiration, at least in my case, tends to come from that drive to get a perfect story on paper. When you get stuck in that loop, like I’ve been for years, you will always go back and adjust your work. Let me take The Necromancer’s Daughter as an example.
I’ve been writing about some of these characters for well over a decade. I still remember some of my old stories, where a group of teenagers would go to some sort of combat fantasyland summer camp, where they would go through obstacle courses and compete against each other. They would live in these treehouses with their teammates while they slowly rose through the ranks. There was some good in those stories, and I took some of the aspects of it and kept them in my stories for years, but there was also a lot of awful, awful writing there. But there was writing there. I wrote like my life depended on it when I was younger. I wasn’t as burdened with stress back then, and had a lot more free time, but I wrote every second I had the chance. I wrote on the train to and from school, I wrote on my computer after my parents turned off the wifi because that’s a thing that happens when your parents don’t know how to deal with kids and technology. I even wrote on paper when I had to, and carried a little notebook with me for ideas. I loved writing. I still do, but why don’t my actions reflect it nearly as much as they used to?
I used to be part of an email chain with fantasy author Raymond E. Feist and many, many other die-hard fans of his Riftwar Saga books. Now I’m not 100% sure it was him who said this, or he was quoting someone else, but it has always stuck with me:
The first million words you write will be terrible. Only after that can you start improving.
The quote is probably not word for word, but the sentiment stands. Writing takes a lot of practice. You can’t sit around and lose precious time waiting for inspiration that may or may not come to you. You have to sit down in front of your keyboard, put on some inspirational music, and just go. You need to write, write, and then write some more. Then you go back, and toss out all the crap you don’t like. The diamonds in the rough, you keep those, polish them and eventually turn them into a good story. Not a perfect story, but one that brings joy to people. If I make even one other person excited to read my stories, then all the time I’ve put into this will have been worth it. So my advice to you, but primarily to myself, is to discipline yourself to write. Write a thousand words a day, write a million words a year, set crazy goals and just aim for the sky. (To the moon, as Wallstreetbets would say). Someone will appreciate your hard work. And if you feel like no one is interested in what you write, know that just putting in the time and effort to create something at the very least makes me proud of you.
Happy writing folks, here’s some bardic inspiration for along the way!