Last week in Part 1 of “When the Well Runs Dry,” I explored the cause of why sometimes your writing might not feel inspired. I conclude that the reason you might not feel passionate about what you’re writing is that you’re too conscious of your audience and not focused enough on what will please you. To combat this, I recommend giving yourself permission to write what you want to write. When you care about what you’re writing, that feeling of inspiration will return, and that sense of emotion will carry through to your readers.
For some of you, simply giving yourself permission to write what interests you will be enough to find that inner voice. Sometimes it takes more.
For me, writing has grown more difficult now that I have a published novel out there. Now that I have readers, I find myself growing more self-conscious about pleasing my audience and less about what is important to me.
An invaluable resource for me has been the book Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion, penned by Author Magazine’s own editor-in-chief, Bill Kenower. Far from a how-to manual, it’s a book of two-page essays that make you think not just about why you’re writing, but why you’re here, and how much of who we are is reflected in what we choose to write and how we approach it.
Having interviewed hundreds of authors, Kenower writes not only from his own perspective but from the perspective of the authors he’s met. In “Practically Done,” Kenower writes, “Life can appear to be divided in two: that which you must do, and that which you want to do. The musts are certain; the wants are optional.”
He goes on to say that there will always be something else you must do. When a friend points out that it would be more practical to write books like John Grisham, make a pile of money, and then write the books you want to write, Kenower points out the impracticality of doing things one doesn’t want to do, writing things one doesn’t want to write. “I usually can [do those things] for a time,” he says, “until the tension between where I want to go and where I am telling myself I must go becomes so great that something snaps and I must start again.”
I keep a copy of Write Within Yourself at my desk and start my writing day by turning to a random page and reading whatever essay falls under my eye. The book is my daily reminder that in order to be true to my readers, I must be true to my own passions.
Write Within Yourself is not a guide, but a companion. A guide will tell you where to go. As a writer, only you can know that. A good companion, however, can remind you that forgetting where you want to go is different from not knowing where you want to go. Author William Kenower believes that what it takes to write the book you most want to write is also what it takes to lead the life you most want to live. This collection of essays serves as a companion for those times when you need inspiration. Write Within Yourself will help you stay connected to the writer and the life within you.
Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats.