Finding Inspiration Where You Least Expect It

As a writer, I’m often asked where my inspiration comes from. Where do I get my ideas? Do I have a favorite author that I strive to emulate? What is it that drives me to put pen to paper?

Oftentimes, I don’t have the answers to those questions. I just know that words, stories, anecdotes live inside of me, somewhere under my skin, itching to be released. I wake up in the middle of the night with a new idea for a blog, and lay awake, stars peeking through my curtains, and write it in my head. Dreams lead to book ideas. Illustrations lead to book ideas. A beautiful day at the beach leads to book ideas.

The problem, for me, isn’t finding a way to tell a story, or jotting down a particularly clever turn of phrase. The problem is finding the motivation to do something with it. Share it with the world. Finding the courage to seek publication.
For years, I felt like a dog on a leash, desperate for escape. I had so many ideas tumbling around in my brain like so many puppies. A humor novel. A memoir. A children’s series. Each time I would sit down at my computer, ready to take that first step into becoming a true writer, that choke collar would pull me to an abrupt halt. Questions, doubts, fear would creep in and take over, sending my creativity into a retreat.
Would someone really pay me to publish this story?
Are my characters under-developed?
Are there too many holes in the plot?
What if it’s not good enough? What if I’m not good enough?
One beautiful autumn day, not too long ago, I had a conversation with my brother, Adam, about this very subject. He’d asked me why I hadn’t ever seriously tried to break into the publishing world. And I shared with him those fears, those doubts, that I just shared with you.
In Adam’s crib, circa 1988.
And he said to me, in his less-than-poetic way,
You’ve got to tell that voice to shut the hell up and just get to it, sissy. Because you’re better at this than anyone I’ve ever known.”
I’ve received praise before–from glowing comments to awards and everything in between. My husband cheers me on every single day. I’ve had my Daddy pat me on the back, and my Mom tell me how much my words made her smile. I’ve had friends tell me they look forward to my blog everyday, and that they’ve passed it along to all their friends and relatives.
But those words coming from my little brother meant more to me in that moment than any praise I’d heard before in my life. Because finding out that your little brother actually admires you…well, that’s just priceless in my book.
A rare moment of sibling concord, circa 1997.
A month later, when I had the opportunity to join NaNoWriMo, I didn’t even hesitate. I jumped in with both feet and produced a manuscript that’s tipping the scales now at approximately 53,000 words. And while it’s a far cry from being a publishable work, it’s the first time I’ve ever put that much work into a book that is my very own.
And all because, when that little voice started up inside my head, I told it to shut the hell up. And I just got to it.
I have Adam to thank for that.
♥ Thanks, Bubby. ♥

8 thoughts on “Finding Inspiration Where You Least Expect It

    1. Abby

      Don’t you hate that voice??? If it wasn’t for self doubt, I’d be thinner, smarter, sexier, and published. Drat that stupid voice, she ruined my life. LOL

    2. thesacredandtheprofane

      Have you ever read “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott? If not, you need to run out and get it RIGHT NOW and read it. It’s a great primer on writing life and she also hits all the points about the self destructive voice in our head that tries to upend the creative process. She calls it Radio Station KFKD. It’s a fantastic book, and whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, I reread it.

      Here’s one great quote from it that always speaks to me:
      “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

  1. Stephanie

    Love this post, Abby! I know that same voice lives in my head. And – while I LOVE blogging – sometimes I feel like it’s just another excuse for me. Because I tell myself that I’m WRITING, and then spend hours on blog posts every week…while my novel doesn’t progress at all. It’s hard to figure it all out, isn’t it?

    1. Abby

      I think the same thing everyday…but I love my blog so much! I just don’t think I can part with it. I’ll just have to find time to do both. 🙂

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