Inspiration is everywhere. Unfortunately, so are a million other things that either quell or distract us from that inspiration.
I originally wrote the first draft Don’t Eat the Waffles in around late 2013. I had rapidly published a number of short stories and hastily written novellas under a now abandoned pseudonym, and I was on a roll. Ideas were coming thick and fast, and even back then I felt that Waffles was one of the best ideas I had ever come up with.
But, as with all early drafts, something still didn’t feel quite right about it. It was like that moment you realize you’re one piece short of your 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzle.
I suffered a fast and severe case of author burnout and I put Waffles on the back-burner for a whopping five years. I would occasionally pull the file out of its folder, stare at it for a few minutes, and close it again. No matter what I did, how many books I read, how much encouragement from friends and peers I received, I just couldn’t find any inspiration to finish or even continue editing Waffles.
I realized that unless I did something pro-active about this dilemma, I would most likely never publish this book. See, it wasn’t just my delayed response to editing and completing Waffles, I hadn’t written anything at all in the five years that followed it. Every idea I would jot down felt flat and lifeless, every first chapter would feel forced and unloved.
It’s important at this juncture to point out that I don’t believe in the mantra “don’t wait for inspiration”. Personally, I believe this leads to cookie-cutter work that is churned out because you generally feel obligated to, not because you absolutely have to with every fibre of your being.
My best work keeps me awake at night, it runs through my head like a silent movie when I’m grocery shopping, it’s literally all I think about and I absolutely must write it down because otherwise I can’t focus on anything else. The work I create when this happens comes from a place of pure passion, of pure love for writing.
Why would anyone want to write a novel that feels like it’s being forced out?
No, dear reader, what I believe in is not waiting for the inspiration, but looking for it in everything you do, see, hear and read. Ask yourself: would my character wear that? What would happen if the villain came in and did that thing they do, right here in the milk aisle?
And, once you have inspiration firmly in your grasp, hold on to it like that door from the Titanic. Never. Let. Go. Wake up at 2 am to write down the idea. Voice record that dialogue. Take a notebook, camera or sketchbook absolutely everywhere. Eavesdrop, people-watch and imagine what people are doing or talking about.
Inspiration is like a snowball: get it rolling, and it becomes an absolute juggernaut. But you need to have snow before you can make one, or you wind up with that gross slush that’s full of pebbles and dead leaves.