Mistake No. 39: Waiting for inspiration

I’m guilty of this. I’ll know it’s time for another mistake-writers-make, but I’ll dither about which one to cover. There are dozens in my ideas file, so you’d think it would be easy. But no, that one’s not quite right yet, that one’s a bit advanced, I’m saving that one for the 100th… there’s always an excuse. I’ll try to start writing one then think… blah, not really into this. Let’s have a cuppa instead. I need to be in the mood.

“I don’t wait for moods,” said the writer Pearl Buck. “Your mind must know it has to get down to work.”

Well, exactly. Other than rejection, what can be more dispiriting than sitting at a keyboard, waiting for inspiration to strike, fingers poised over your qwerty – and nothing coming out?

Don’t kid yourself that this is writers’ block. That’s a cop out. No, in non-fiction, if you’re ‘blocked’, if you’re busy not-writing, then you’ve not bitten off enough to chew: you have under-researched your idea and your writing saliva cannot flow. Get away from the keyboard and go research and fact-find. And if it’s the idea which is missing, then do likewise – go read or brainstorm or distract yourself. Those elusive brainwaves are unlikely to come when you’re staring at a blank screen, getting increasingly restless and picking at your nails. Remember Buck’s words: “Your mind… hast to get down to work.”

Have the idea? Done the research? In theory raring to go – but still finding yourself not-writing? Then you’re scared of doing wrong. Just write one line – however rubbish; then add another – however rubbisher. And carry on. You can make it less rubbish when you revise (you do revise and edit don’t you?).

Or maybe you don’t know where to start? Force yourself to start anywhere – and keep going. It may turn out to have been the wrong place to start, but you can fix that later. It’s all right to make that mistake – and to make any number like it (for we love mistakes here) – because (and it is worth repeating) you can fix it (or them) later.

It's all about your attitude; it's all in your head.

And know what you’re not doing now? You’re not not-writing, that’s what, and soon not not-writing drifts seamlessly into writing, and subconsciously you’ll have forgotten that there ever was a problem.

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