Better Writing: 2 Ways to Spark Inspiration

Nov 16, 2023 | Better Writing

You need inspiration to do your best work. When you are inspired, you can get into the zone and produce good work. When you’re not inspired, you might as well be on the chain gang breaking rocks and not having fun or producing anything worthwhile.

You may not call it “inspiration.” You may call it “the muse” or “motivation” or just “ideas.” Whatever you call it, successful writers agree you shouldn’t wait for it to hit before you write. My favorite quote about this is from Jack London.

“Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club, and if you don’t get it you will nonetheless get something that looks remarkably like it.”

But how do you do it? Jack London is silent on that point, but I think I know how you get inspiration.

Get to Work

Get to work. Start writing. When you do that, inspiration seems to show up.

It’s best to start each session knowing precisely what you’ll write. That’s not hard to do. Before you wrap up any writing session, decide precisely where you will start when you resume writing. That advice doesn’t just come from me. A host of writers, from Ernest Hemingway to Mark Bowden, swear by the technique.

Take a Walk

Sometimes, inspiration flags, and you hit a rough patch. Now, it’s time for different tactics. Leave your project alone and go for a walk.

I mentioned walking because it’s a favorite of writers. Nietzsche said that “the best ideas were conceived by walking.” You don’t have to walk. Do anything that occupies your body but leaves your mind free to roam. Do some housework. Take a shower. Go for a drive. I like eating pistachios, where I get nutritional benefits while keeping my hands occupied and mind free.

During your walk or other activity, the Default Mode Network of your brain will start throwing ideas at you. Don’t assume you’ll remember them when you return to your laptop. Capture those ideas in writing or as a voice memo.

Bottom Line

Don’t wait for inspiration before you start writing. Start writing, and inspiration will show up. When inspiration flags, go for a walk or do an activity that puts your body on autopilot and lets your mind roam free. Be sure to capture the ideas you get.

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