Category Archives: Inspiration Station

Inspiration Station — Sara Zarr

There’s a lot of excellent advice to be gleaned from Candy Gourlay’s lovely reflection on Sara Zarr’s SCBWI conference keynote speech, but what really stuck with me was this: “You have to have faith that if you show up to the page something will happen.”

It is alarmingly, destructively easy to justify putting off writing. Every writer is familiar with the litany of ready-made excuses: “I’m not done outlining.” “I have to finish this character sketch.” “I’m just not feeling it today.” “You can’t force inspiration.”

That last one is particularly dangerous in its allure — because you can’t force inspiration, not really. True, reckless-abandon, lose-track-of-time, alive-with-the-joy-of-creating inspiration streaks into spontaneous existence like a rainbow across a previously gloomy sky. But while a rainbow can’t be willed into appearing, certain conditions are inarguably more likely to produce one — and the same goes for inspiration.

My favorite mantra from my beloved National Novel Writing Month is “You can’t edit a blank page.” You have to start with words, no matter what those words may be. You have to give inspiration a chance to appear, provide it with the conditions it needs to thrive.

So show up to the page. Something will happen.

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Inspiration Station — My Best Friend

Beautiful lady, beautiful view.

Since the night my best friend and I first bonded over terrible dance music and late-night Easy Mac, we’ve been able to talk about absolutely anything. From the pettiest bits of gossip to the most monumental of life concerns, there has never been a moment of hesitant communication between us. So it makes perfect sense that my best friend is thus far the only person to hear a single meaningful word about my new WIP.

To everyone else who asks about my current project, I remain ambiguous and noncommittal — probably insufferably so. “It’s a…dystopian…I think?” I reply with a vague wave of my hand. I’m so cautious about bursting my own mental bubble that I’ve made it a point to stringently avoid discussing even the most innocuous of details, like my MC’s name.

But not only is my best friend, well, my best friend, she’s a writer and a bibliophile and just as enamored with YA as I am. It would have been downright silly not to answer her when she asked about my WIP. (Which, incidentally, is in serious need of an actual title.)

And whaddya know — getting out of my own neurotic head did me a lot of good. My best friend, her literary wondrousness on full display, asked me a series of probing-yet-not-pushy questions that proved to be excellently inspiring. Some helped me clarify ideas in my own head as I articulated them to her; some prompted entirely new thoughts that I’m hoping will really add some depth to my story. I even told her about my favorite — gasp — Big Plot Twist. And it was relieving. It felt like I was working things out, not ruining them by voicing them prematurely.

I still haven’t told anyone my MC’s name, though. I guess some mental bubbles aren’t ready to be popped.

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