A lot of famous writers get asked where they get their inspiration (ideas). Some say they don’t know. Others say from other writers or just observing. Harlan Ellison says his comes from Schenectady, NY.
Here’s where I get mine. Just like this random post you are reading which I decided to write without any pre-concept or plan of doing so until 2 minutes ago, my inspiration comes from just sitting down…and writing.
I write every day, for 20 minutes, in a freewrite journal. I’ll start a story and write on it for 20 minutes a day until it’s finished. Yes, I do miss a day or two here and there. Usually on weekends. I write in this journal at the end of my day (around 9:30), but here lately I’ve been writing in it first thing in the morning. It doesn’t matter. The point is, I write. The question now probably is this: how do you keep writing on the same story every day? Don’t you get writer’s block?
I’ll answer the first question first: Easy. When the timer goes off, I find a pretty spot to stop. It looks like this: “I write and”
That’s how I do it. I stop mid-sentence. So, when I come back the next day (or two) I open the journal, read the last sentence for context and then…write. It’s like I never stopped. To continue the sentence above the next day I’d continue: “I stop in the middle of the sentence.”
Do I get writer’s block? Yes. But not when I’m working on the story. I just let it flow. It’s a writing sprint – a 20 minute run. Done. In just under a year, I have written nearly 22 short stories writing 20 minutes per day-ish (I didn’t write for nearly a month at one point…can’t remember why).
The writer’s block usually happens in between stories. Keep in mind, I HAVE to write 20 minutes. If I finish a story 2 minutes into that, I give myself a few minutes to start something new. Pencil to paper. <– READ THAT. PENCIL to PAPER. NOT on a laptop. I transcribe and edit later.
I truly believe in the tangible aspect of pencil to paper. Laptops are for typing. Journals are for writing.
My writing sprint is 100% physical. All the classics were handwritten. Or typed on a manual typewriter. Editing came later. That’s important. I don’t edit. I cross out a word here and there and write in a better word, but I don’t edit. I don’t proofread, and maybe this part is a bit anal, when I transcribe – I transcribe verbatim. Mistakes and all.
And another thing: I have no idea what I’m going to write! But I WRITE.
I write short stories. I have written a couple of stories which run over 100 pages in my small journals (6x9ish), which is over 10,000 words easy, closer to 15,000. But the same thing applies to novels. I write.
I also don’t limit myself to genre and if the story goes really wonky, weird, whimsical, or vulgar, so be it. Once I’m writing, I’m writing for 20 minutes. I grab my journal and four sharpened black Ninja pencils. I go through them all. When one gets “dull” I grab the next one and keep going.
Writing is where the inspiration comes from. From writing. The characters take over, react, talk, and do their thing, until they’re done. That’s it.