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June 15, 2021
By Shelli Chosak
A writer and therapist explores how to stay creatively motivated

I wanted to write this article because I know how important inspiration is and I have found something missing in the materials I’ve read previously on the topic. I finished writing my own article, then went for a walk in my neighborhood, a village-like setting with modest homes scattered on sloping grassy areas amid walking paths and a variety of very mature trees that dominate the landscape.

The trees give off an energy that fills me with peace and erases the daily trivia. Being in nature has always opened up something in me, and I found myself flooded with positive feelings, sensations, and new perspectives.

The article I had just finished came from a place of discipline, determination, and thoughtfulness, and is probably good enough. How many times have you written from that place? To move from good enough to inspiring requires you to expand your self-imposed boundaries. If you aren’t writing from true inspiration, your readers will likely pick this up—and they won’t be inspired.

How many books have you read that you thought were well-written and were solidly informative, but were soon forgotten? When we remember books, it’s usually because we picked up on the writer’s inspiration, which touched our hearts and souls or challenged our curiosity and intellect.

A clear understanding of the elements of inspiration will not only help you recognize it—it will also help you create pathways to allow it in.

In his essay “Why Inspiration Matters,” published in the Harvard Business Review in 2011, Scott Barry Kaufman explores how inspiration impacts levels of productivity and satisfaction. He writes that people who are inspired report “higher levels of important psychological resources, including belief in their own abilities, self-esteem, and optimism. Mastery of work, absorption, creativity, perceived competence, self-esteem, and optimism were all consequences of inspiration, suggesting that inspiration facilitates these important psychological resources.”

It’s important to notice where your motivation is coming from. If you are mainly writing to seek praise, financial gain, or fame, these motivations, while understandable, can interfere with the authenticity of your work.

When I started writing, someone asked me what my goal was. My response: I just want to share what I have learned.

So how do you create space and allow inspiration in? Consider some big questions. I strongly suggest that you write your responses down. Start with:

What excites you about writing?

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

What stimulated your interest?

Whom are you really writing your book for?

What are your hopes and dreams about what will happen once your book is finished?

What goals or dreams might possibly interfere with your inspiration?

The substantial energy required to write, edit, and market your book will be sustained when your inspiration is based on a burning curiosity about or true love for your subject and a desire for honesty, quality, and clarity.

The following activities will help you grow inspiration. These activities are not about developing and improving your specific writing skills. They are designed to help you develop and maintain the inspiration that will make it all work.

Increase your self-awareness. This is the most important and significant thing you can do to awaken your inspiration. Even if you think you know yourself well, there’s always more to learn. Self-awareness is key to developing and maintaining inspiration and will also provide additional insights into your writing.

Keep a journal. Write something in it every day. Usually, the end of the day is the best time. If something comes up that throws you off balance, take a few minutes to write down the event, what you are feeling, and what you do with your feelings. Or just start writing, stream of consciousness—writing whatever comes into your mind, even if it’s writing about not wanting to write, or feeling like this is a worthless exercise.

Pay attention to your thoughts. Notice what thoughts you have, and how you react to them. For example, do worry, fear, and judgment of others or yourself dominate your thoughts? These are automatic negative thoughts. “Don’t believe everything you think,” as the author Allan Lokos has said. How do your thoughts affect your inspiration to write and the quality of your writing?

Regularly pay attention to your feelings. See if you can identify them, even if you think they are unimportant. What do you do with a feeling? Brush it off or bury it, rationalize it, blame it on someone or something else, get upset that it exists, or just let it all out? The healthiest way is to acknowledge the feeling and then ask yourself what you want or need to do with that feeling. (This is the first step in emotional intelligence.)

Seek experiences that will allow inspiration in. This can mean listening to music, being in nature, or embracing solitude in other ways.

Get comfortable with vulnerability. Vulnerability is inevitable in writing: you are exposing yourself and allowing yourself to be judged. It is a great asset in your writing. In her 2010 TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability,” author Brené Brown calls vulnerability “the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.”

Invite regular and honest feedback from people you trust. This is much easier to do when you allow your vulnerability to surface. Listen to the feedback, but avoid dismissing or accepting it too quickly. Give yourself time to think about and evaluate the feedback—both negative and positive.

Best wishes for continued inspiration!

Shelli Chosak is a psychotherapist and the author of Your Living Legacy: How Your Parenting Style Shapes the Future for You and Your Child, which was a finalist for the 2019 BookLife Prize Nonfiction Contest.