Once Upon an Inspiration: Making the Dream Come True
- Susan Spann The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
- 2012 26 Oct
“I had an inspiration once...”
You wanted to write a novel, a short story or a play, a bedtime tale for your children, or perhaps a movie script.
It doesn’t matter what followed that word or what stopped you from bringing your inspiration to life. It didn’t happen, and somehow your dream became “what might have been.” Maybe you read this column last month and thought, “I can do that,” and yet thirty days later the pressures of life and family and things-to-do derailed your plans once more.
This month we’re going to change that.
The good news is you’re not alone, and the better news is that your inspiration needn’t falter and die. You may think the dream is beyond you or that you haven’t got the time to make it work. Here’s a secret all successful writers know: nobody has the time. The difference between success and a dream is a choice to “make the time.”
Let’s take a look at eight different ways successful writers budget time and give substance to inspiration.
1. Carry a notebook everywhere. Jot down ideas on the spot so you won’t forget them or have to re-create them from fading memories. It takes only a few words to preserve inspiration. When you get home, transfer your notes to a binder or file you set up for “ideas in progress” so you can find them quickly when you decide to write.
2. Any sixty minutes make an hour. Don’t let a lack of unified time become an excuse for failure. Many successful authors start out by writing in very small increments. Write during your break or lunch hour. Write for ten minutes before you go to sleep. You can even write during your children’s tests or while they fill in their worksheets. Remember: Parents can have homework too! At first you may struggle to focus, but don’t give up. Little steps still move you toward completion, and writing gets easier with practice.
3. Set reasonable goals. You wouldn’t start an exercise plan with three hours of running a day—why expect to write your first novel in a month? Unreasonable goals at the gym lead to failed fitness, and wildly aggressive writing plans fail too, especially if you don’t have hours to dedicate each day. Can’t manage a chapter a week? Try a chapter a month, or longer if necessary. Find a pace that works for you at first and increase it over time. Meeting your goals will renew inspiration and help you stay on track.
4. Find a writers’ group—or create one. Accountability encourages progress, and authors draw inspiration from interacting with other writers. Your group may consist of strangers, friends, or teenage sons and daughters with inspirations of their own. You can meet online or in person, once a week or once a month. The key is finding others who share your dream to provide encouragement, advice, and honest critique. The best writing groups consist of writers at different stages of experience and progress. Don’t be shy! Writers love to talk about writing, and any contact with other writers is better than walking the road alone.
5. Say something now, and fix it in editing. Don’t worry about “getting it right the first time.” A completed novel takes several drafts and many hours of revision. The same is true of short stories, plays, and every other creative work. Editing during the writing process bogs you down and discourages completion. Remind yourself often: First drafts are for putting words on the page. Correction comes later, in rewrites and future drafts. You can fix any mistake—as long as you give yourself something to repair.
6. Persevere. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. Inspiration provides the spark that sends you off the starting line, but that early burst of energy won’t take you all the way to the end of the race. When you reach the middle—and inspiration flags—perseverance is key to reaching the finish line.
7. Stuck? Try research. Sometimes “writer’s block” is nothing more than a lack of information. Your character needs to draw her sword, but you don’t know how heavy a blade she would use or whether a woman could wield that weapon left-handed. That’s where research comes in. Find a book, read the Internet, or talk to an expert in the field. Research doesn’t just answer your questions; it sparks inspiration too. When you find the information you need you’ll return to your project excited and eager to put those new facts to good use. And if research has you flummoxed . . . April’s Inspired Homeschooler column will take you on a “research field trip” and teach you to find all the information you need to bring your inspired ideas to life.
8. When you fall off the horse, climb back on. The road to success is littered with discarded novels and stories that failed because authors allowed a setback to derail them permanently. Emergencies, family issues, and daily life will interfere with your writing progress, and that’s not an “if”; it’s a “when.” No matter how determined you are, at some point you’ll look up and realize that weeks—or months—have passed since you tried to write. Don’t despair. Instead, pick up the pen and move on. Don’t let a setback cost you a dream.
“I don’t have the time” and “maybe next year” are recipes for writing disaster. In the game of “might have been,” the “buts” always win. Don’t let that happen to you! Grab your notebook and dust off that inspiration.
Make this the year that you decide to make the time and make your writing dream come true.
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free TOS apps to read the magazine on your Kindle Fire or Apple or Android devices.
Susan Spann is a partner in the law firm Llewellyn Spann, where she specializes in copyright, trademark, and corporate law. Formerly a professor at Trinity Law School in Santa Ana, California, she currently teaches business law at William Jessup University.
Publication date: October 29, 2012