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By Johannes Helmold

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I have heard numerous times how writers—be it amateurs or professionals—talk about the principles of organization of their work. I was surprised how people sometimes state something like, “Inspiration is a justification for laziness; when I need to write, I sit in my chair, and don’t get up unless I write five pages.” Or, what is as peculiar, they can say, “I set a daily limit for myself, and stick to it no matter what.” Personally, I don’t find such approaches effective.

Some people can actually write in any circumstance; they literally make their minds work on writing, similar to a sculptor who carves a stone. A stone in this example is a mass of thoughts and ideas about the composition, and the process of carving is equal to writing, when an author shapes their thoughts out, filtrates and organizes them. But let’s be honest: how many of us can make themselves write? I am not talking about some mediocre high school essay, but about high quality academic or creative writing.

Usually, when I try to force myself to write, I start producing some kind of weird literary cadavers. Dialogues look unnatural, language becomes stiff, and the entire composition creates an impression of an artificially-constructed odd job. I am pretty sure that it’s not only for my case, but for many other writers who either write on a daily basis, or just try to stimulate their productivity through forcing themselves to write.

Perhaps, I am a romantic person, but I believe in old-fashioned inspiration. I remember plenty of moments when thoughts simply poured out of me, and seemed to self-arrange into sentences, paragraphs, articles, or chapters. In such moments, I could easily write a dozen of pages without any significant effort. And though such writing still required further editing and proofreading, inspiration was a much more powerful and effective boost then a disciplined, but pointless daily sitting at the computer.

So, instead of forcing myself, I started to cultivate my inspiration. I figured out what makes me feel good—items, events, people, music—and surrounded myself with it. Japanese traditional gagaku music? Perfect. Solitude? Just fine. Walking around the city with no particular purpose? Okay. Reading my favorite books aloud to my wife? Great.

What you feed your mind with will go out in a digested way. Since it’s probably not a pleasant metaphor, I’ll paraphrase it with a well-known saying: what goes around, comes around. Spend a week watching TV in the evening and lying on a sofa—and, most likely, you’ll create nothing better than a pointless Facebook post. But the more impressions you consume—real impressions, not those surrogates on the Internet or on TV—the more inspired you will feel. One day you will feel an urge to write down thoughts that used to seem trivial before—and you will do it in a brand new way.

That’s how inspiration works. Cultivate it, grow it, and when the time comes, you will feast on its ripe fruit.

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