Finding Inspiration to Write During Life’s Diarrhea

How do you find inspiration when after eating a giant buffet of Indian food, life decides to take a run in 101 degree weather, then chug some milk before going 80’s dancing during $2 margarita night and ultimately take a giant turd on you?

Ok, my life isn’t that bad right now, but I’ve sadly begun to realize (well, actually I realized this long ago but have been in denial about it ever since) that my best writing does not come with the ebb and flow of life’s little diarrhea.

I, unfortunately, also do not have the gift of creating while being completely crocked. My great dream as a child to grow into a mentally unstable artist with seven ex-husbands and eight chemical dependencies has been dashed!

For example, check out this classic piece of penmanship I wrote when I was 22 and had a habit of getting drunk, alone, at 9PM on Friday nights in order to deal with my new life as a Hollywood assistant:
“Dear Lord, I’m so drunk, I just hit my eye on the corner of the nightstand. I can’t stop crying. I’m stumbling to the mirror like a baby. What’s this purple stuff I just threw up? Boy! Look at that pretty cut. Hey pretty! God, I want someone to hold me.”
So considering life ain’t going to get any easier, how am I, a young person who fancies herself being a writer one day, going to prevail artistically through life’s road blocks?

Let’s review the recent events that have taken place in my life;

1.) Ended employment at an establishment whose motto is, “We’ll eat your baby or puppy with a fork!”
2.) Found employment at a place that loves both babies and puppies (and the environment).
3.) Dear friend in serious accident.
4.) I changed my birth control pills which simultaneously made me want to hump and punch a tree.
5.) Another dear friend died; representation of my childhood that made me realize that was dead too.
6.) Not able to take a much needed vacation from this Twilight Zone episode “The Midnight Sun”-esque Texan heat after working nearly every day for the past 17 months, which includes not seeing my beloved family since last December.
7.) Went to the Scott Pilgrim premiere, caught up with an old industry friend from LA, remembered my former life, thought about how my life has now turned into a cheesy Generation Y coming-of-age movie that would feature some no-namers and probably go straight to DVD, debated whether or not I missed working in the film business.
8.) While listening to the song “Purple Rain” realized that Prince will never dance the way he did twenty years ago and that I’m going to die one day.

All these factors made me not only not want to write, but go take my blog out behind a shed, beat it, and bury it alongside all the dead baby and puppy carcasses that my old employment ate.
So what is one to do during these times?
I have a couple of suggestions, but mostly I want you to tell me.
You tell me what to do!


1.) Get the f out of town– It doesn’t matter where- just go. It can be the kitchen of a Waffle House for crying out loud, just something that’s going to put you in a different physical and mental place. I recommend upgrading to something a little nicer like the Golden Corral though. Hell, I sometimes drive to the neighboring city, find a bench somewhere and just sit. It’s amazing the difference.
2.) Read a book that is your style– I’m surprised to discover that after I read a book, when writing, my sentences are more developed and new words plop down on the page. There is something about this thing called “reading” that I like. I hope it sticks around for awhile.
3.) Don’t get on FB/Twitter– Er, actually, I’ve found both to be great tools in finding articles/writers that inspire me, however, that only makes up about 25% of my time on there. The other 75% is spent looking at photos of the popular people I went to high school with and quietly judging the beer bloat and hair loss they’ve acquired since graduation.
4.) Get a muse– Well you can’t just “get” a muse. It’s not something to be forced. You know when someone muses ya and when you do, don’t be afraid to take full advantage of their inspiring abilities. Offer cookies, gold krugerrands, or sex in return if you have to.

5.) Become fearless– My biggest problem is that when I don’t feel inspired, I feel like whatever I’d write would end up sounding like something my drunk 22 year-old self wouldn’t even get. I guess I should get over that, huh?

….How do you champion through life’s obstacles and keep on writing?

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  • Reply One Blonde Girl August 20, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    I vote for #one. Or jump on the insomnia roller coaster like me and watch the crazy come pouring in. Or relocate to a new city, without a job, and become a freeloader. Also like me. And throw in some bottles of wine for good measure. Not that any of these things are necessarily helping me with my current blog dilemmas, but they sure are making life…uh…well… interesting right now.

  • Reply Sophie Neutron August 20, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    I wouldn't say "Become fearless" but you should write in spite of the fear. If it's nothing but useless crap, then that's what it is.
    Who knows, it might even help develop new ideas
    maybe it'll help let out the blah. Either way, that would be far from useless.
    I think part of the trick to surviving life, is to learn to take on the bad days with as much 'zest' as we would the good days…

  • Reply Polly Syllabick August 20, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Well, this:

    All these factors made me not only not want to write, but go take my blog out behind a shed, beat it, and bury it alongside all the dead baby and puppy carcasses that my old employment ate.

    alone should be a line snort-inducing enough to make you KNOW you should write.

    I think its a combination of many things on that list that you'll only be able to grasp AFTER they've happened.

    Or, just come to NYC already and the blog coven will poke you with sticks over drunk brunch until you're appropriately inspired or done with writing altogether.

  • Reply Jessica August 20, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Well, I'm not a writer and feel silly giving you advice. But, I think a change of scenery can do some good.

  • Reply Geophrie August 20, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    I agree with the change of scenery. Even if it is just a temporary one. A vacation, a roadtrip, camping, do something you've always wanted to do.

  • Reply WILDasaMINK August 20, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Prince can't dance like he used to because I heard he needs hip surgery really really bad. True Story…i really did hear that.
    Maybe its best for us all to just watch Purple Rain and forever imortalize Prince in our brains as is he is in that movie on his little motorbike, in all his purple gloriness.
    And maybe you should take a little time off and visit your family–of course making a pit stop thru NYC first! Just my suggestion! (although if you were to stop off in NYC, I'd have to find you, then proceed to get us drunk so we act like we're 22–er, story of my weekend life these days, pathetic!)

  • Reply Hipstercrite August 20, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    @one Blonde Girl- Moving to a new city definitely helps! I think you're on the right track, lady…

    @Sophie- Good advice. I'm still learning…

    @Polly- God dammit…stop. You're making me feel bad.

    @Jessica- Oh, shush yo face. You're hysterical! I love your stuff!

    @Geophrie- Road trips are the BEST, aren't they? They always inspire me. I need to take one very soon…

    @Mink- You're right! And he won't get the surgery because he's a Jehovah's Witness. The whole thing makes me weep.

  • Reply Christina In Wonderland August 20, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    I'm going to give you my take on all this shiz, and it has nothing to do with revamping your life or finding peace in trouble or any other kind of New Agey stuff. What I do is interact, somehow, with anyone and everyone. Random people, random places, random things… That interaction- new stuff, old stuff, stuff you loved when you were a kid- has always helped me remember that I'm still living and breathing and that my writing is always going to be an extension of that. If you let life beat you down, you forget who you are, and if you forget who you are, your writing forgets you.

    I mean, I may not be a great writer (Hell, I know I'm not), but I know what kind of writer I am, and even through the times I think I can't, I beat through the drama and say "Damn you, drama. I'm still going to do this my way, not your way."

    Mind over matter, girlie.

    Mind over matter…

  • Reply Benny August 20, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    I second #1. But it only works for me if I don't plan to get out of town just to get out of a funk or just to be inspired. If I go somewhere thinking, "this will work," it often doesn't. Do you have that experience?

    I think #2 is a good idea, too. My go-to for "my style" is Kurt Vonnegut. But I have to be careful, because it is extremely easy to overdo it.

    I feel like it's healthy to read "foreign" styles but in the end, it's best to just let them reinforce your own. I feel like, funny enough, writers are more likely to put down books than "non-writers," because "non-writers" don't have an idea in their head of what writing should be, and writers do (even if they don't express it).

    #3 I have put myself on an FB schedule: I usually stick to checking it only for ten minutes on the hour, every hour. It changes the nature of how I view the site. It makes it feel like a business-like obligation rather than a place to fuck around. I don't always stick to that rule, but I swear, my life is better when I do.

  • Reply Nikki August 20, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    I'm about to spend the month of September jetting around the US – I have no clue what I'm looking for but my whole life is one big change of pace right now, so I'm just going with it. 🙂 Check this out – if it's not sold out yet it is the best deal ever: http://jetblue.com/aycj/

    Or just drive with the windows down as far as you can & scream as loud as you can until it makes you laugh until it makes you cry.

    I'm gonna be in Austin toward the end of september, want to meet up? 🙂

  • Reply DavidRayDog August 20, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Go to Mohawk tonight for some booze and loud music or tomorrow night go to Beerland or the Carousel Lounge for loud music and booze. Great shows at very reasonable prices. It'll be fun. Heck, you can skip the booze and still have fun.

  • Reply Randall August 20, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    This is something I come to a lot. I feel an overwhelming urge to produce work, even when there aren't deadlines, even when I should be enjoying downtime, or whatever. And since so much of my writing and deadlines are self-imposed [really, really nice way to say no one has a desperate need to see my stuff], these things really work on me because it makes me feel lazy and undedicated to the thing I like so well and want to do.

    I see a lot of people saying what you did about "unplugging" – putting down the Twitter or Facebook, turning off the cable, killing the internet, etc. And while I think this gives you more time to work, might even move you to sit down at the keyboard or with pen and paper, but that doesn't guarantee the work you do will be good, or as satisfying as things you do under your normal conditions. That just gets words out. Which is fine, but what you do might not be up to the quality you usually strive for.

    The best examples you gave were reading a book, or finding a muse, which I think are both just smaller parts of a bigger solution — exposing yourself to new ideas or things. Or even old ideas or writings or things you've set aside, but used to be really passionate about. The point is, to get yourself excited and interested in something, and distracted from the shit storms of life.

    I think, and this runs a little counter-intuitive to what you're asking us to tell you, but it's also okay sometimes to just tag out — call it a bad time, a time where you're not going to be as productive, where the work isn't going to be up to par, and just take a break to deal with the fact that you've been put through the wringer. As long as you're able to say, after an appropriate amount of time, "time to get started again!" I don't think there's anything wrong with taking a little bit to recover.

  • Reply KeLLy aNN August 21, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    I go cloud cruisin, get out and about to one of my fave places like the coffee shop, read a book and write down the pieces of dialogue that make me laugh, and then come home and play in my studio while burning nag champa and listening to 70s Sirius radio…
    Or The Chook Man and I will have an adult weekend in New Orleans.

  • Reply Jesse August 22, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Upheaval can really make one question the legitimacy of their creative pursuits. I lost a job, a pet, a place to live, a band, and a girlfriend within the space of a few months. Writing was actually one of the main things that got me through those less-than-lovely times.
    Whereas a change of scenery can be splendid, I also recommend that you carefully read something that's masterfully written (I always recommend "The Great Gatsby") and analyze the structure of the sentences, paragraphs, etc. There's a lot to be learned from studying genius. I think a book like that can inspire you in a myriad of tangible and intangible ways.

  • Reply IT August 22, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Good question.
    When I figure it out I'll let you know. I think it is a sorting exercise of some kind.

  • Reply Trina August 23, 2010 at 12:05 am

    I like Henry Rollins' quote, "When life hands you a lemon, say, 'Oh yeah, I like lemons! What else ya got?'". It reminds me that no matter what happens, shit can only get worse. Someone, somewhere has it 10 times worse than you. Not that that fact should make you feel better, but it's not the end of the world. That person is living, breathing and making the best of what's around. Why can't you? Right? It also reminds me that if it rains, might as well dance 🙂

    Don't give up. Don't be afraid. Don't give a f**k!

  • Reply The Other BG August 23, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    I know the feeling of your situation pretty well I think, and here's what I do that seems to help at least a bit:

    Imagine the place or the lifestyle you would like to have most in the entire world. For example, a lot of writers might say they want to live in a remote cabin doing nothing but reading or working on their manuscript. Or, someone else might want to spend their days touring art galleries and museums. This daydream should be more about what you'd like to do every day, as a lifestyle, and not as a vacation. When you figure out what you want, just do it (in one form or another). Just take one day, afternoon, or weekend and do exactly what you'd like (subject to financial and time constraints, of course).

    Like you said, going to the park or to the next town can be a good substitute for actually moving. But, the main thing is the change of focus; for that one day you have competely different priorities, and you have none of the pressures of your regular life, hopefully.

    Anyway, that's what I do, even if for only a couple of hours. That being said, reading is usually my very-short-term solution, and moving to another city happens only when theres a pull from that city and not only a push from my current one.

    Best of luck!

  • Reply TabithaVenasse August 23, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    Sadly, my advice would not be much, as I currently find myself in that same state.

    Which is why I'm on the computer right now. Only, instead of writing, I'm catching up on blog reading. Oh well. Two hours to go before bed. I'm sure I'll get around to it.

    (and that attitude right there is the reason my writing is suffering).

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