Inspiration is evasive. Here one minute, gone the next. Just when you need it, it runs off, and you can hear it laughing at your shaking fist.
Sometimes you don’t even realise it has gone—until you sit down to write and you end up staring blankly at your empty paper. You sigh … write a few words, cross them out … Your mind drifts, and you try to pull it back. Finally, you toss your pen away, get up, and the first person who sees you says, “What’s the matter?”
“I just don’t have any inspiration,” you answer, in a tone strikingly similar to Eeyore’s.
So what is inspiration, anyway?
The Treasure Defined
‘Inspire’ means ‘to breathe into’, as in the verse ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness …’ (2 Timothy 3:16)
God breathed His Word, and chosen men wrote it down.
But the word inspiration has evolved over the centuries, just as hundreds of other words have. We are not writing Scripture; God is not breathing words for us to put down on paper as He did with the apostles.
I think often when we speak of inspiration, we really mean motivation or emotion.That feeling of excitement that makes us say, “I need to go write—right now.”
Sometimes it comes when there’s news of a writing contest (that’s motivation). Sometimes it comes while playing a song on the piano or reading an amazing book—one of those that leaves the reader bitter-sweetly satisfied, but at the same time wishing for more (that’s emotion).
The Treasure at Work
So what exactly does this great inspiration do, and how do we cultivate it? Inspiration is the lubricant that keeps your brain-cogs turning. It is the water that causes your idea-sprouts to grow. It is the fuel in the gas tank, the half-hour lift in a car given in the midst of a three-hour hike.
You can drive your car with the empty light on for a while, but eventually the gas tank will run dry. So how do you keep this evasive thing from turning its back on you? And if it has, how do you befriend it again?
The answer looks different for everyone, but one place we should look for our greatest inspiration is God’s Word. God is the Author of all things. He is the reason we live, the reason we love, the reason we can laugh through tears and leap over hurdles. My latest post, Novel Ideas, covers this topic in more detail.
So find your inspiration in God first.
Then there are lesser things that cause inspiration—you could write a list a kilometre long and still not be finished if you accepted ideas from every author this world contains. But there are two practices that come to mind for myself (both on the emotional level): music and authentic setting.
This one is important to me. If I’m writing a story that takes place in the springtime, I write it best sitting outside under a sunny sky. If a scene in my book has pouring rain, a rainstorm out the window helps greatly.
Some settings you can settle halfway. There is no way I’m going to be able to sit in a muddy WWI trench to write Judah’s Battle. But if I can go outside in the rain and slog my way through the mud, experience the chill through my jacket, imagine I have a sixty-pound pack on my back weighing down my steps …
Hmm, I sort of feel like writing right now …
Music is powerful. Music can change your mood, making you laugh or cry; it can send a shiver down your spine with its beauty or make your heart race with its speed.
Music can be dangerous.
Have you ever considered that? Music does something to its hearers—whether for good or bad.
God gave us music to worship Him. As a small taste of His beauty. But just like many things God has given us, people have distorted it into evil.
I’m not going to list what you should and shouldn’t listen to. But I hope that whenever you put on a CD or select a playlist on your computer, you ask, “God, is this music glorifying You?”
Now go write!
Use the music with which God has blessed us. Use the weather, land, and sky He has given.
And look to Him, the Author of our lives … writing books, stories, and poems that He will find glory in.