Thursday, October 7, 2010

10 essentials for an inspired author's life

My first guest post ever. Isn't the image of the goldfish in the lightbulb delightful? Please welcome K.M. Weiland.

K.M. Weiland writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in the sandhills of western Nebraska. She is the author of the historical western A Man Called Outlaw and the recently released medieval epic Behold the Dawn. She blogs at Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors and AuthorCulture.

10 Essentials for an Inspired Author’s Life

The romance of a tortured artist’s life aside, all writers are in search of the secrets that will allow us to keep the inspiration flowing through our lives. In my recently released CD Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration (, I discuss the best ways to keep Madame Muse at your beck and call—rather than the other way around. But, today, let’s take a look at ten essentials (some more essential than others) for any author wanting to live a consistently inspired life.

1. Coffee and chocolate: What’s a writer without a little caffeinated energy? There’s just something comfortable about any routine that includes two of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. Plus, they’re always good for self-bribery.

2. Music: As a breathing of the soul—a wordless story—music is an inspiration to all of us, no matter our calling as artists. Writers listen to music to calm themselves before jumping into a tough chapter, to jack up the adrenaline before writing battle scenes, or even just to catch a random bit of inspiration for that next story.

3. Effective and personalized tools: No two writers work in exactly the same way, so it’s no surprise we all prefer different tools. My tools of choice are a handful of notebooks, a scratchy pen, and a laptop. Whatever tools you choose, invest in something you’ll enjoy using. Writing can be tough enough without fighting an old clunker of a computer that freezes up every few weeks and endangers your work.

4. The arts: Artists of every stripe feed off each other. We refill our creative wells from the offerings of others. Don’t let your well go dry! Pile your nightstand with good novels, watch every good movie that comes your way—and don’t neglect other art forms, such as painting, singing, and even cooking. Absorbing this wealth from others is invaluable for any writer, but don’t be afraid to delve into other art forms for cross-pollination in your writing.

5. Strong goals: The occasional drudgery of writing can become overwhelming if we don’t have a strong focus on what we’re trying to achieve. Decide what it is you want to accomplish with your writing—whether it’s publication, becoming a bestseller, or even just finishing a story to share with family and friends—and keep that goal firmly in sight, especially on the tough days.

6. An encouraging atmosphere: We can’t always choose the kind of atmosphere in which we write; sometimes we just have to write whenever and wherever we can. But, whenever it’s in your power to do so, try to surround yourself with an atmosphere that encourages your writing. That might mean isolation, or it might mean a cheerful, busy bistro. It might mean a quiet office filled with your favorite things, or, like Hemingway, it might mean your kitchen table, surrounded by your children.

7. Acceptance of interference: Much as we might like the idea of retreating to our ivory towers to write in solace for twelve hours straight, we all know that real life doesn’t quite work that way. It’s best we learn early to accept the inevitable interferences (our day jobs, our kids, our plumbing emergencies) that thrust themselves into our writing days. Otherwise, we’re sure to go crazy!

8. Habits of consistency: The most important skill any writer can have—even more important than writing superb prose and gripping plots—is the ability to be consistent. Don’t allow yourself to get away with excuses. Don’t let your writing slip to the bottom of your to-do list every day. If this important to you, then prove it to the world by consistently giving it precedence.

9. A cat: What’s a writer without a cat? We all need a warm, furry body twining around our ankles, jumping onto our keyboards, and occasionally giving us supercilious looks to remind us that we are not, after all, Margaret Atwood or Stephen King.

10. Imaginary friend: Is it even possible to be a writer without invisible people running amok in our brains? Keep those special, magical people close by your side, and you’ll never lack for characters to write about!

Come back next week for my review of the CD "Conquering Writer's Block and Summoning Inspiration" as I soak up inspiration via my iPod for the next couple days. That goldfish in the lightbulb has me completely intrigued! 
What animal would you pick to symbolize inspiration?


  1. Excellent points. I think the one about the arts is very true. It's inspiring to mix with other creative people, and keep in touch with what's going on in the arts generally. Different forms of creativity all feed each other.

    Look forward to your review of the CD Margo. x

  2. A brilliant guest post - thank you! I don't have any pets, so can't appreciate number nine, but I do have a ninja sock puppet who keeps an eye on me. LOL.

  3. An interesting guest post, Margo and I love that image of the goldfish in the lighbulb.

    I believe that points 4 and 5 are very important. I'm inspired by country walks and I like to garden and cook. Music is valuable too. I set goals for myself that are realistic.

    My muse: a white rabbit called Bunny (cute, fluffy but not a real rabbit).

  4. Yay!! Of course having a cat helps!! Of course!! LOL!!!:-)

    Thanks for these fab essentials for inspiration! I agree with all of them - esp. having a room of one's own and the cat! :-) Oh and chocolate and caffeine! Take care

  5. Wonderful post - I especially agree with number 4. It really is neccessary to read in order to write. If I feel my creativity is going dry, reading several good books refreshes it even if it doesn't directly inspire the story I'm working on.

    No cat, but a small dog who demands petting by pawing at my arm or my notebook, as the case may be. You can see the scratches on some pages.

  6. No pets allowed here. But I have stuffed animals that work well. I totally agree with number one, btw. In fact, I made a flair that said "Writers are people who won't give up their imaginary friends."

  7. All very good advice! I think routine is the key, really. If you start it with chocolate and coffee, all the better. Mine starts with peanut butter bread and Coke Zero. Close enough ;) But I don't have any pets....

  8. Just lovely. And I think my cats inspire me - I needed extra inspiration, so I got two. :)

  9. Joanne - it is so inspiring to mix with other creative people! I heard another blogger describe the contacts she's made via blogging as "networking with geniuses" and I totally agree!

    Ellie - you simply must post a picture of the Ninja sock puppet that inspires you!

    Christine - another writer with a non-living animal muse. I love the diversity!

    Old Kitty - I was hoping you'd see this post! I thought of you when I read K.M.'s #2!

    Elisabeth - I have probably just as many dog lovers as cat lovers in among the writer's blogs (though not too many goldfish yet). I am split between my horses, cats and dog!

    Galadriel - you are third to mention a stuffed animal(s). Maybe this something I should look into.

    Carolina - peanut butter bread - with a drizzle of chocolate :) You are so right abuot the routine thing. I always grumble when my routine gets off track.

  10. These are some great writer necessities!

  11. Love this list! K.M., you had me at Coffee and chocolate, though seriously.

    Margo, can't wait to hear your review of the CD. I will definitely have to check it out.

    Love K.M.'s blog and her twitter. She's awesome!

  12. Great list! Chocolate and flavored coffees are two of my favorite things. I don't do too well with music on. It distracts me. Maybe I haven't found the right music for writing yet.

  13. Melissa - thanks for commenting!

    Karen & Susanne - yea for chocolate and coffee (in my case, tea and chocolate).

    Susanne - I can't write with music, either. and I've tried every type.

  14. The best thing for me that works is consisitency-- it's my pesonality--having the same place to write,and times and quiet!

  15. I love this list and do it all, even down to the cat. While I don't have imaginary friends, I let my characters talk to me all the time. That counts, right?

  16. I hate to say that I'm not a pet person, so for me no pet is good, but if I had to pick, probably a cat.

  17. Great list! The cat would distract me, but I have a Garfield shirt. Does that count?

  18. Simply a spot-on post. Your #1 reason drew me, and everyone else, right in! I don't have any pets either...just four kids. :)

  19. Terri - consistency is the key, isn't it? As much as we love our muses, whatever they be, I think for the long haul consistency is what serves us best!

    Theresa - there is a fine line between imaginary friends and characters, I think. If my characters don't come alive to me, like yours do, then there's a problem...

    Patti - pets can be a big distraction, even kitties.

    Janet - a Garfield shirt - I love it. He's a great character!

    Molly Brown - hey, I have four kids, too. Is writing consistently hard for you like it is for me?

  20. mmm coffee and chocolate always do the trick for me. I hope you had a wonderful weekend!

  21. Excellent guest post - they're hard to come by, so well done! I really enjoy KM Weiland's blog too. I was wondering, will a dog do in place of a cat? ;)

  22. Love this! And 9? Too true! :D

  23. @Joanne: Mixing with creative people from all walks is inspiring, but the writing community, in particular, is an amazing place to glean inspiration and motivation.

    @Ellie: You know, I almost said ninja sock puppet instead of cat. ;)

    @Christine: Snoopy the dog gets to be my official muse. He's a little more encouraging than my cats.

    @Kitty: Can't write without the three C's! Cats, chocolate, and coffee...

    @Elisabeth: I had a friend's chihuahua who chewed up my original copy of A Little Princess. The books stay out of the critters' reach now!

    @Galadriel: Lot of truth to that. I've always thought that one of the saddest parts about growing up is giving up on making believe. Writers don't have to do that!

    @Carolina: I'm big on routines. It means life runs much more smoothly, but it also means that it doesn't include many impulsive surprises.

    @Susan: I have four bundles of inspiration running around right now - plus a hyper black Lab.

    @Melissa: Glad you agree!

    @Karen: The word "chocolate" does have a way of drawing the eye, doesn't it?

    @Susanne: I prefer soundtracks when writing. But we don't have to listen to music *when* writing to glean inspiration from it.

    @Terri: Me too. My muse likes consistency.

    @Theresa: Of course! Eavesdropping on characters is one of the best parts of the imaginary life.

    @Patti: Actually, I have to admit that my cats are outside pets, so the inspiring they do is restricted to after-writing hours.

    @Janet: Yeppers. Garfield always counts!

    @Molly: Writing with four kids underfoot gets you extra chocolate points!

    @Teenage Bride: Gotta keep the muse fat and happy!

    @MT: My black Lab (Crazy Bob) isn't allowed to walk across the keyboard or sit in my lap when I'm writing, but sometimes I think he's more appreciative of my writing than the cats. :p

    @Marieke: Cat people unite!

  24. Amazing advice. I especially love that part about a writer without a cat... too true. Also the part about consistency.. Just like with everything else, if you forget to do it for just ONE day the habit is lost and you have to start back at zero.

  25. I heard somewhere that it takes three months of consistency to create a habit. Sad part is it can be broken in much less time than that!



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