Uninspiration—that blank, blah feeling you get when you know you should be creating something brilliant but come up empty.
I’ve been looking for a word that encapsulates this feeling. There’s lack of inspiration or discouragement, but I wanted a single word to describe it.
I’ve been up and down a lot this week. When I first started this blog, I set myself the goal of posting a new article every week. But lately, I’ve felt so uninspired.
I even wrote an article on pedantry, but I’m just not excited about it. My feelings run somewhere along the lines of meh.
Have you ever felt this way? You know you should be writing something, you even have a whole list of possible ideas, but nothing just feels right.
It reminds me of trying to slog my way through school essays. I hated, hated forcing myself to write mediocre prose just to meet a deadline. It’s a good part of the reason I didn’t go on to grad school after college. Why would I want to spend all that time, effort, and money to do something I hated? I never wanted to write again unless I had something to say.
Don’t I deserve better than that? Don’t you, my readers?
This tension between deadlines (my promise to provide content) and quality (my personal standards) started me to thinking about a writer’s obligation to their readers. Is it better to meet deadlines and expectations even if you produce mediocre work? Or does quality trump deadlines?
Productivity over Quality
I’m not going to name names, but I’m sure you can think of at least one author who started out their career with creativity and originality. Then, somewhere along the way, they lost that spark, but they just kept writing. They began to just phone it in.
Maybe it was just a blip in an otherwise-stellar career. Maybe it became a trend. But the bottom line is that we, the readers, would have preferred that they just wait and produce one good story rather than twenty uninspired ones.
Quality over Expectations
On the other hand, we also know writers who start a series and let years or even decades go by between releases.
As a reader, I want to say, “That is not OK, y’all!”
Whether your obligation is to your readers, a publisher, or even just yourself, you made a promise, especially if you started a series. Your word needs to count for something.
And no, you don’t get a pass if you’re only breaking a promise to yourself. If you don’t even care enough to keep promises to yourself, how do you expect others to keep theirs to you?
Is There a Middle Ground?
But as this week has made all too clear to me, writer’s block is a thing.
I keep thinking back to something Nora Roberts said in 2017 in an interview on Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me. She said that she doesn’t believe in writer’s block. When she feels uninspired, she just continues to write. What comes out might be awful, but if she just keeps putting words on the page, eventually, something good will emerge.
Just Keep Writing
Perhaps that’s the answer. Just keep writing. Keep making the effort. A lot can be fixed in editing, but you can’t edit something if it doesn’t get written first!
And if it’s truly unsalvageable, there’s nothing to say you can’t stuff it in the back of a drawer—or in a random folder on your computer—and forget it ever existed. Think of how many times stories or partial stories by famous authors have come out posthumously because the author’s grandchild found those scribbled stories and notes tossed aside in a stack of other papers in the attic.
For me this week, continuing to write looked like keeping my journal nearby and jotting down any new ideas as they came to me. When good ideas are few and far between, it would be a shame to let a good one slip through the cracks because I forgot it by the time I finally sat down to write.
I should know. I’ve been kicking myself all morning because I woke up in the middle of the night, and while I was waiting to fall back to sleep, a great title for this article came to me. I didn’t want to get up and write it down, and just rolled over and went back to sleep.
Now, it’s gone. Poof. Right out of my head.
Do you know how hard it is to come up with a great title? Something witty and original but that perfectly encapsulates what you’re talking about? Let me tell you—it’s hard.
Now, I’m typing it all out in the bit of spare time I have before I need to leave the house this morning. Sometimes, I have more drive and motivation in the morning; sometimes, in the evening. But I’m jumping on it when the inspiration and motivation hit, because they may not be there later.
So, I keep writing, and I encourage you to do so, too. You may or may not be the next great Shakespeare or Agatha Christie, but you’ll never know if you don’t actually write something.
Let’s get to it, then!
Rebecca Miller is a professional copyeditor and general fan of all things having to do with the written word and the English Language.
You can check out her website at Oakdale Editing or connect through Facebook, LinkedIn, or Email.
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Rebecca has a passion for helping you fill the world with great literature and making sure said literature doesn't get passed over for the lack of a little editing.