A Writer’s Most Common Mistake and How to Overcome It

Jack LondonAt some point every writer makes this mistake; waiting for inspiration. Unfortunately, contrary to popular belief, or wishful thinking, inspiration doesn’t strike like a lightning bolt.

More often, inspiration is generated by “doing something.” Stuck on the last chapter of your novel, well, write an alternative opening paragraph in Chapter One to stimulate your mind and refuel your creativity. Got writer’s block in the middle of your book? Brainstorm the ending, tighten up the dialogue that troubled you in Chapter Five, or read your favorite chapter in your favorite book. You know, the novel that made you want to be a writer. The point is, do something! Don’t wait for inspiration, let it catch up to you.

American author, Jack London (Call of the Wild) was one of the first fiction writers to obtain worldwide celebrity and amass a large fortune from fiction writing alone. Perhaps he said it best. “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

For me, that club is action, the action of writing or editing to generate momentum that invariably leads to inspiration. Inspiration is a lot like electricity. It doesn’t exist by itself, it must be generated. A generator, by definition, generates energy when there is a loss of power. Likewise, when we, as writers, lose our creative power we must generate a spark. We don’t wait for it. We generate the spark by doing something else. Maybe it’s working on a different creative project to cross-pollinate ideas. Maybe it’s physical exercise to release endorphins. Or maybe it’s simply rest, like driving down an open country road listening to music.

London was right. As writers, we shouldn’t wait for inspiration to perform our jobs any more than an accountant waits for inspiration to perform his job. We simply go to work knowing inspiration will show up, right on schedule, when we are in the midst of doing the work.

But if this doesn’t work, you can always go after inspiration with a club.


CSS_Readers_Choice_20th_Anniversary_EditionChicken Soup for the Soul 20th Anniversary Reader’s Choice Edition is now available. This special anniversary collection features new stories from readers paired with the Chicken Soup for the Soul story that changed their lives!

I was fortunate enough to contribute to this book with an article entitled, “Lawn Chair Living.”  This story is about the value of building “pauses” into your life so you can appreciate it more fully.

This fine collection is available at most bookstores, Target, Wal-Mart, K-Mart and online at bn.com and Amazon.com.

CSS Inspiration for Writers (2)

Chicken Soup for the Soul, Inspiration for Writers is also available in bookstores, Target, Wal-Mart, K-Mart and online at bn.com and Amazon.com.

This book features 101 inspirational stories on the writer’s life written by your fellow writers. I contributed a story entitled, “A Writer’s Vow.”

It’s a story that, like this blog, encourages you to never give up on your dream to be a writer.

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