In October I attended my old writers’ group after being away for close to two years. The speaker, Sarah Kaufman, was not scheduled to talk about my area of writing, but I went anyway. Sometimes you just have to get up and go.
Of all the information Kaufman presented, one small comment sparked my interest the most. She explained that as she was writing her book, The Art of Grace, her publisher noted, “It could be like Quiet!”
At that moment, Sarah was not using her competition, but her comparables as inspiration for her book.
This is an often overlooked way to better your writing.
Normally we look for books on our same topic, targeted to our same audience, to see what’s what. How can we do what they did, only better?
But when you have a topic and aren’t sure how you want to approach it, a close look at books that do the same thing as yours but on a different topic — what are known as comparables — now that can be a source of real inspiration.
Inspiration can be funny. We never know when it will come or where we will find it:
- A friend recently moved to Germany and said he was surprised by how uninspired he felt by his new surroundings. This feeling then inspired him to write a novel about a character who felt the same way.
- I went to a writing group to connect with old friends, and I found inspiration to write this post about inspiration. How meta is that?
The feeling of being uninspired is a drain on our writing lives.
Often, this feeling keeps us inside and away from our bookish pals. We unsubscribe from newsletters and blogs about writing, and we avoid being alone with the computer. Who wants to be reminded of how much they aren’t writing?
But what I learned from all of this is threefold:
- Putting yourself in public spaces can trigger new ideas.
- Reading widely, not just in your genre or about your main topic of interest, can improve your writing and lead you in new directions.
- Sometimes you have to open your mind to accept the inspiration that comes.
So get up and go. See, do, and read new things, and follow wherever it leads you.
Do you have a story about inspiration sneaking up on you? Leave it in the comments!
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