Becoming Truly Inspired

by Nicole Michelle

Question: I've loved writing for as long as I've loved reading. Over the years I've trying to think of what I truly want to do in life, it always comes back to being an author. I've started more unfinished stories than I can count, which I know is part of learning about myself and my writing, but I'm coming to a point where I'm getting troubled on not finding a story I really want to tell.

I guess I feel that many of the stories I want to write have been written before, and I don't want to write one just for the sake of it. I want it to be for me and not worry about what others have already told. I'm always afraid of seeming unoriginal in my concept, but I know I have so much I want to say. Do you have any advice on how to find inspiration and be confident in your own, original storytelling? Thank you!

Answer: I can't tell you how to find a story you want to tell, but I will say that the pressure to be "original" can be a major source of writer's block.

There are very few wholly original stories, ideas, or even messages. But there are plenty of unique writers, and it is better and easier to find your own voice than to look for a story idea that has never been seen before.

To take some obvious examples from genre fiction, should P.D. James have not tried to write a murder mystery because Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, or even Edgar Allan Poe had done it earlier? Should J.K. Rowling have abandoned the "magic school" idea because the Worst Witch books had been written first? Should Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon have been the last spaceship story?

Perhaps you want
to write literary fiction, which eschews many of the tropes found in genre fiction and is heavily biased towards experimentation and originality (even at the expense of proven storytelling principles)?

It's a sad irony that the literary realm sometimes turns its quest for originality into a blunt tool to suppress stories. Many a budding writer has given up on his/her craft because of the snobbish standards promoted by literary fans and teachers who will tell students "This narrowly defined type of story is the only type of story worth writing, the only kind to be taken seriously."

Sometimes, you just have to lighten up. Stop trying to be original and instead write the kind of story you would have fun reading, the kind that got you interested in stories in the first place, even if your literary friends would look down on them.

For example, one of the most popular genres, and one where writers tend to make more money, is romance--a genre which "serious" people love to make fun of, especially if they've never read a romance in their life.

Another is comic books, and art form which has grown very sophisticated and literary in recent decades. Yet literary types may strongly deride anyone who wants to write comic books.

I don't know what kind of story really stirs your heart, but if you know then that's what you should be writing. The originality will take care of itself via your unique voice. Even if you have a few conventional tropes or genre elements, when they are expressed through your personality they will likely come off as fresh and interesting.

Remember: being critical and judgmental of yourself is a sure way to make yourself less creative. Whereas not taking yourself seriously and being willing to play and make mistakes opens the door to imagination and creative brilliance.

Comments for Becoming Truly Inspired

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Nov 07, 2014
Great answer!
by: Susan

I think you gave some great advice regarding the pressure to be original. One thing that has helped me take some of the pressure off of myself is to simply write because it's what I want to do, not in order to be published, to be known, etc. Writing gives me great enjoyment. So while I do, of course, want to write well and be published, I know that putting pressure on myself is the surest way to sabotage myself. I'm going to write because I want to and if it gets published, great! If not, I'll still have that creative outlet, even if no one sees it. As far as gaining story ideas, I listen and watch what's going on around me. I get stories from my environment and also through things I wish would have happened in books that I've read.
Thanks for this article. It was a great help to me in organizing a novel I've wanted to write for many years now!

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