As you plan a new writing project, where do you find inspiration? Do you have a fantastic title idea then sit at a blank page and wait for fantastic words to appear? Or do you get a sudden idea for a complete novel with character profiles and names and find yourself frantically searching for a pen to jot it down before you forget the entire plotline?
“Plantsing” as Inspiration
I tend to fall somewhere in the middle. I’m neither a plotter nor a pantser—more of a plantser. I write from a working title (not necessarily the final title I choose) the names of my main characters and a rough outline of the beginning, middle and end. Then I usually sit at my laptop in November for NaNoWriMo and spew 50,000 words onto a document, completing an entire rough first draft by month-end. It’s not pretty, but it’s a good base for revision and editing. I’ve published two books this way.
Images as Inspiration
I’m often asked how I write so many words in one month. I’d like to say it’s because I’m a brilliant writer, but that’s nowhere near the truth. I’m still honing my craft of writing a novel and will continue to hone it for the duration of my writing career. The practice I find that helps me most is the research of images that feed my imagination. Without those images on hand as I begin writing every day, I would be doubly challenged to find the flow of words. Most of my images come from Pinterest, a hobby I find extremely fruitful and also a huge time-sucker. Self-control is needed. My Pinterest boards are full of beautiful photographs and paintings about my WIP (work in progress) and inspire me to produce descriptive words. So, I have images that produce words, but where do I find words that produce images?
The Written Word as Inspiration
We’ve probably all heard the phrase “show don’t tell” to create an image in the reader’s mind. I read a section of four books each morning while my home is quiet, after I’ve fed my demanding cat and the house is devoid of breaking news on the TV. I write poetry more than anything else in this season of my career. So, I read a poem by two of my favourite modern poets, D. S. Martin and Luci Shaw, having recently finished a collection of poems by the Bronte sisters. I also read a devotional book and a chapter of a nonfiction book. Last week I finished reading an excellent devotional collection by Bethney Jacob called Greater Grace, inspired by traditional hymns. And my current nonfiction is Glynis M. Belec’s autobiography, Cancer, No Laughing Matter—But it Helps!
The devotional reading draws me closer to God as I start my day and before I begin writing. The autobiography draws me closer to another human being and her faith story during a very challenging time in her life. I found it brought more clarity to our collective human existence. Both readings help me dig deeper into my own situations and draw from that now quite vast well of experience. The poetry books teach me how to write my craft from different perspectives and discover my own unique poetic voice. I’ve been actively and earnestly seeking after that through workshops and masterclasses too. I have several large stacks of notebooks on each subject!
Perseverence as Inspiration
I’m constantly amazed at other writers’ experiences as they put them on paper (or online) and I see how they began writing. The encouragement I receive from their honesty about sometimes sucking at it is a well-received inspiration to keep writing when the doubts creep in. I can—and should—keep going for as long as God gives me the desire and strength to write. These seasoned writers began the same as I did, with an idea for something to share with others and a tool to do that. They grew over time in skill and confidence, and I can do the same. So, I read books and articles and stare at photos and paintings, and somehow, with divine influence, I write.