Lighting the Creative Spark – Finding Inspiration in Unlikely Places

Me and the Blue Whale of Catoosa

I just got back from vacationing in Oklahoma.

That’s a real head-scratcher, isn’t it? Why not Belize? Or Paris? I’ll answer in two words: Route 66. (Okay, two more words: I’m broke.)

Ahem. Anyway…

I’ve been in love with the Mother Road since the day I stumbled onto its neon lit byways in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It really is the Main Street of America, passing through eight different states and showcasing the best of what our country has to offer in the way of roadside attractions and art deco gas stations. If you haven’t driven at least a few miles of it, you’re missing an essential piece of Americana. But I got more than my kicks on Route 66. I got my creativity back.

You see, for the last few weeks I’ve had a raging case of the writing yips. If you know anything about baseball, you know that the yips come from over-analyzing. And boy, have I been over-analyzing. Do I write something I’m passionate about, but isn’t popular at the moment? Or do I give in to whims of the Publishing Gods and write one of those seething, angsty YA novels where The Chosen Girl with Hidden Powers must Save the World from Evil Forces while swooning over an Outcast from Another Tribe. (shudder)

If you read my previous post about Karma and Writing, then you know I’ve wrestled with this before, ultimately siding with my passion. Unfortunately, the book idea I had back in January turned out to be crap on a cracker, and I’ve been floundering ever since. Enter Oklahoma. Traveling got me away from Twitter, Facebook, and, yes, this blog. It got me away from

Chandler, OK Icon

the shrapnel flying over the Indie vs. Traditional debate, the Big Six vs.The Library debate, and the Scott Turow vs. Rational Freaking Thought debate. It even got me away from writing. Just reflecting on someone else’s creativity, like Dale Chihuly’s glass sculptures at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, or learning about the fossil record at the Sam Noble history museum, did wonders for my brain. So did hiking the Wichita Mountains and pondering the plight of the bison, which were wiped out to near-extinction levels in the nineteenth century. 

Bison of the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge

Point is, I gave myself permission to stop thinking so hard about writing and start thinking about something else. Anything else. And I came back home with a well-shaped idea for a YA novel and enough energy to write the picture book I’ve been noodling with for awhile.

Let’s face it, with all the chaos and uncertainty involved with being a writer these days, it’s hard to hold onto the one thing necessary for success: inspiration. So much doom and gloom and worry kills the desire to create. So if you find yourself with a bad case of the writing yips, here’s what I recommend:

1. Get out of the house. Go some place you’ve never been, even if it’s just to a different neighborhood or a different coffee shop.

2. Bask in someone else’s brilliance, preferably outside of a book. Reading a masterpiece will only make you feel incompetent, and reading a sh*tty novel will only make you mad. Better to spend your time at the art museum or the indie record shop.

3. Become involved with someone else’s problems/life for awhile instead of your own. Have lunch with a friend, volunteer, call your mother.

4. Jump your brain off the tracks. Rent that Spanish language CD from the library, take up piano, build a house out of beer cans. Just do ANYTHING that gets you moving in a new direction, capiche?

5. Last, but not least, stop thinking. Thinking screws up everything. Believe me, I know.

So while my agent is off at the Bologna Book Fair, doing what she does best, I’ll be here, in my little corner of Texas, doing what I do best: writing. Finally.


How about you? Ever suffer from the writing yips? Where do you get your ideas from? What’s the best place for writing inspiration?



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