It’s not easy to sit down and will yourself to feel passionately about the story you are trying to write. Sometimes you might get revved up with excitement when sharing your plot ideas with a friend, but when you sit down to write, you either can’t rekindle that thrill for your story or you don’t know how to grab on to that essence of fire and infuse it into your story.
It’s not easy to translate concepts that feel like hot sparks of brilliance into words that actually ignite a reader’s soul, but some writers seem to be able to do it. Maybe you’ve had a few moments when the writing spilled out of you and you watched almost from a distance, awed by the words appearing on the screen or page. Those of us who know how special that feeling is—when the passion of our story emerges in a seeming explosion of inspired beauty—want to be able to “get to that place” as often as we can. But is there a way to do that?
The Same Old, Same Old
We often feel our words go dry or we are skimming a stagnant pool for something fresh. While writing, we may feel we are just rehashing the same tired ideas, phrases, adjectives, or plot elements. Our writing feels dead, flat, uninspired, and that might be because we feel uncreative and lacking passion about writing anything.
It’s hard to force creativity. We feel it just has to flow, well up like a spring, or hit us in some random flash like a lightning bolt from the sky. Which puts it in the realm of chance. In a previous post I mentioned something Donald Maass said about that, and I agree with him—that you don’t have to leave it up to chance to feel infused with passion and present that in your novel.
Sometimes it seems like the harder we try to “be creative” or write beautifully, the worse our writing becomes. I’ve heard some people say all you need to do is write. Write thousands of words a day and push your self hard. Just keep writing and writing and, like a rusty old water spigot, eventually some clean water (read:exquisite writing) will come gushing out. You can read my controversial and opinionated post on the topic here.
“More” Does Not Necessarily Make Better
I know some of you will disagree with me when I say I think that is not the best way to become either a passionate writer or a good one. Just writing a lot of words as fast as you can is no guarantee your writing will get better and better. Think for a minute what that means—to get better and better. Are we talking about craft? About self-discipline? Maybe forcing ourselves to write, say, five thousand words a day will teach us the discipline of setting our mind to the task of writing and pushing through our excuses to do just about anything else but write.
Some of us writers have to leave our houses and go to a place where we can’t get up and wash the dishes, vacuum the living room, or putter in the garden instead of writing. I go to the library almost every day to get away from my demanding dog because I have a hard time saying no to the Frisbee pushed in my face and those beseeching eyes that beg me to play with him all day long (I admit it—I am codependent!). Yes, forcing ourselves to write can get us into the habit of writing, whether we feel like it or not.
And I will say that the act of writing for hours with a determined focus can produce some good writing if we have gotten to that place where we are proficient in the craft and have the “writing tools” and knowledge of how to use them to craft a powerful scene or short story or chapter in a memoir. But quantity just doesn’t equate to quality.
Some Ways to Ignite Passion
- The best way to get out of the stagnant pool or boring sludge you’re mired in is to change the scenery. Get in a place where clear water can flow and refresh your spirit. There are things you can do to find the passion of your story and ignite that fire within so that it comes out on the page. I’m not talking about literally changing your scenery as your write, although that can be one thing that helps spark that passion.
Have you ever sat on a beach at sunset (or sunrise depending on what coast you’re on) and written a poem or in a journal and felt that the beauty of creation around you stirred your words, set them loose? Many famous poets throughout the centuries wrote while inspired by nature, and wrote about nature. Nature can spark passion. Immersing yourself in beautiful surroundings might help your creativity.
And maybe it’s not beauty and sublimity you need. Perhaps for you, sitting in a crowded cafe in a foreign land does wonders for sparking ideas—the fresh change of scenery an inspiration. The point being—getting out of your rut and routine can sometimes be the antidote for mundane writing and uninspired thinking.
- You could try to take this idea a step further when you feel stuck and creativity is just not happening. You may feel you only write well or can concentrate early in the morning. Try setting the alarm and getting up a few hours earlier. Take a shower to shake off your sleepiness and then in the quiet before dawn, try writing that scene you have planned to tackle. If you can’t write at night because you’re just too tired, try taking a walk to invigorate yourself (or some other type of exercise) and then sit down after dark and try writing. You may surprise yourself. Sometimes by attempting to write at a time you normally don’t can fire up your little gray cells.
- Some writers, like my favorite mystery writer Elizabeth George, spend a half hour or so reading a great book before beginning to write for the day. Reading really well-written books, whether novels or nonfiction, can inspire and spur some on to passionate writing. The key here is to read something great. It could be a classic you love. A few lines from Dickens or the book The Wind in the Willows can really spark my love of reading such that I can’t wait to write.
These are just a few outward things you can do to help stimulate creativity. But as I mentioned above, just changing your literal scenery may not be a “surefire” way to ignite that passion. It may help, but it’s just one of many ways. Next week I’ll give you a few more things you can do that I’ve picked up from writers who really tap into passion when they write.
Share your ideas and thoughts—what helps ignite your passion for your story? Where do you go and what happens when you try to write in a different place or time you usually do? Does routine help or hinder your passion for your story?