Waiting for Inspiration

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by Joanne Brokaw

“Writing lies in the vast space between those two poles of brilliance and desolation, in a space called work.”


An acquaintance, we’ll call him Joe, recently told me he’s a writer. “I have several books in the works,” he said. When I asked if he was close to finishing any, he replied with a chuckle, “Not yet. I’m still waiting to be inspired. You know how it is.”

I do. In fact, there probably isn’t a writer out there who hasn’t waited for the writing gods to rain down inspiration so he could finish a project.

This was on my mind as I sat down to write this guest blog post, partly because it was close to the deadline and I hadn’t yet come up with a topic. I’ve been really distracted by writing projects, travel, and the fact that I just found Dr. Who on Netflix. I wasn’t feeling inspired.

No, wait. That’s a lie. I was being lazy.

When Joe talked about being inspired, I shared with him something I’ve learned over the years: “If you’re a writer, you write. Even when you don’t feel inspired.”

A lot of writers find themselves waffling between two ends of the writing spectrum. One end assures you that anything worth writing must pour from the pen as if God himself was etching another ten commandments. Yes, you tell yourself, you are the most amazing writer in the entire universe. Life as we know it will change for eternity because of the sentence you just wrote.

The other end of the spectrum insists that, without divine inspiration, anything you commit to paper or computer screen is drivel, trash, a crime more heinous than murder. And so you do a million other things while you wait for your muse to strike, because without it you are nothing. Lower than nothing. You are, in fact, not a writer. Go get a real job.

At the risk of bursting the bubble of creative self pity, I’ll let you in on a little secret: Writing lies in the vast space between those two poles of brilliance and desolation, in a space called work.

Painters paint and teachers teach and policeman police and truck drivers drive trucks. And writers? They write. They do it when they don’t feel like writing. They do it when everyone else is out having fun. They do it when their brains aren’t churning out a single good idea and a deadline is looming.

Yes, sometimes we need to take a break from a project, to get some clarity, stretch our legs or do more research. But if you’re waiting around for the time when you feel inspired to write, you’ll never finish anything.

Writer, inspire thyself. It’s pretty simple: Park your butt in a chair, put your fingers on the keyboard, and start writing.

Write anything. Copy a page from your favorite novel. Set a timer for 10 minutes and just start writing about what you did yesterday, putting anything on the page until the buzzer goes off. Write an email to yourself about why you don’t feel like writing.

I guarantee one of those things will spark an idea, which will make you want to write some more, which will make you feel … dare I say it? … inspired.


Joanne BrokawAward-winning humor columnist, blogger, and freelance writer Joanne Brokaw spends her days dreaming of things she’d like to do but probably never will—like swimming with dolphins, cleaning the attic, and someday overcoming the trauma of elementary school picture day. She’s been published in dozens of publications, including Refreshed magazine, Patheos.com, Fido Friendly Magazine’s blog, and Focus on the Family’s Breakaway magazine. Her book, What the Dog Said, a collection of humor columns, is currently available from Wordcrafts Press. She lives in Western New York with two dogs, a cat, six chickens, and one very patient husband. JoanneBrokaw.com