Writer’s Toolbox

Ask The Writer

Your most pressing and perplexing questions about writing answered here by Gotham teacher Brandi Reissenweber.

I haven't felt very inspired lately, so I haven't been writing much and I'm worried about this. Is there anything I can do?

Yes, you can write. That's the only answer. It's short, simple, and true. Writing begets writing. If you engage in the act and keep at it—even if you're writing drivel at first—you'll eventually gravitate toward something that interests you.

Many writers think that they need to wait for inspiration to strike in order to motivate or energize them toward a story or poem. Some writers speak of the muse, as if the idea and emotional upwelling of creation comes from an external source. This romantic notion makes the process seem effortless. Who wouldn't want to be the special person visited by such a rush of energy and innovation? But, in reality, this line of thinking renders the author passive. He's waiting at his desk, longing for inspiration. He feels abandoned by his muse, who visits only occasionally. He's sad, lonely, and powerless.

I certainly don't know every last particular of the creative process. At the very least, elements of it are shrouded in mystery. Still, one thing is certain. If you sit around and wait for the muse to come a-courting, you're not writing. You're just staying out of the way. Instead, put words on the page as a way to invite inspiration.

Some writers swear by a daily writing journal. Others make writing appointments and keep them the way they would a meeting or a doctor's appointment. Logging time with the page in this way can help you practice translating emotion and also offer a place to toy around with ideas, experiment, and consider interesting bits that come up in your daily life. Much of this won't amount to anything, but some of it will. You'll be too busy following those leads to lament a lack of inspiration.

Inspiration doesn't strike from above, carried by some magical force. The process is messier and involves more of your labor. And it's much closer to the ground where all the mere mortals tread. Inspiration is unearthed. And to unearth it, you must till the soil.