There’s a formula I’d like you to remember. Grab some paper and a pen, if it suits you. You ready?
(Idea – Passion) x Tenacity = Insanity
If you’re not the mathematical type (join the club), the distilled version is this—if you have an idea for a story, no passion for said idea, but you’re dead-set on writing it, you’re going to drive yourself crazy.
Let’s say you’re interested in romantic novels, so you set out to write a great love story about John and Jane. You sit in front of that blank computer screen with the cursor incessantly blinking, but can’t compel John and Jane to share a hug or kiss. In your head, they won’t even look at each other. Maybe you keep daydreaming about how John moonlights as a serial killer and Jane is an undercover FBI agent trying to catch him in the act. Explosions and thrilling car chases race through your head—boom, pow! But this scenario doesn’t fit into your sunset-filled dream world, so you quickly stomp it out, because you’re writing about love. Your cursor continues to blink, slowly ushering you into madness. The problem?
You are telling the wrong story.
Without passion for your idea, you’re going to fail at writing about it.
So what do you do if you find yourself in this situation—a writer without a fire propelling you forward (or a car chasing you into the horizon)?
You start over.
Find something that does motivate you—an idea that you can’t wait to get home from a long day at the office and write about. Read books in the genres you love. Read books in genres you don’t love. People-watch and observe scenes from everyday life. Go to a museum and look for a painting at which you can’t stop staring. Listen to some Pavarotti. Absorb and consume everything until you know what lights your fire. You’re going to have to work for it.
I think Stephen King said it best in On Writing:
“There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy dust all over your typewriter or computer station. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level…You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you…but he’s got the inspiration…the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic.”
It’s your duty as a writer and creator to give life to things that motivate and excite you. Spend some time with your cigar-wielding muse and clean up after him. Learn his ways. And when it’s time for you to put pen to paper, you’ll feel it.
How do you inspire yourself in your writing or other aspects of your life? Tell me about it in the Comments section, on my Facebook page, or on Twitter!
Writer, editor, and storyteller living in the Twin Cities.