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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

When Waiting Leads to Writer’s Resistance

hiding-in-a-boxWhat if you were a kid playing hide-and-seek and no one came to find you?

You’d probably a) feel hurt or angry and b) stop playing.

What if it turned out you were “It” and everyone else was waiting for you to find them?

You’d probably a) stop feeling bad and b) start playing again by going out to find the others.

Some writers play a backwards game of hide-and-seek with inspiration. They’re in hiding, waiting for inspiration to find them.They don’t know that they are “It” and they should be out looking for inspiration.

Have you ever fallen unwittingly into this passive, invisible resistance?

cant wait

Simple Solutions

The next time you notice you’re waiting for inspiration, consider who or what inspired you recently. Start your 15 magic minutes of Product Time there.

  • Freewrite about who or what inspires you
  • Research who/what inspires you through reading, internet searches, talking with others, etc.
  • Draw a cluster or mind-map
  • Write a poem about who/what inspires you without naming the person or thing
  • Explore what happens when you give an object or trait that inspires you to one of your characters; or what happens when you take that object or trait from a character
  • Create a collage of people and things that inspire you
  • Apply any of the tools and techniques suggested for when you don’t know what to write.

Deeper Issues


– Chuck Close, painter

Most of us started writing because we were inspired, so it’s resasonable to draw the conclusion that inspiration leads to writing. It can, but it’s not the only trigger for writing.

If you’re never inspired, delighted and gratified by writing, why would you bother to continue? But there’s a whole lot of territory between “never inspired” and “only when inspired.”

It’s certainly is easier to get started when you’re inspired. And it’s far more engaging and satisfying to write when you’re inspired, when you get lost in the creative flow. But as delightful as inspiration is, it is not a requirement.

Welcome inspiration when it shows up, but don’t wait for it. If you write only when you’re inspired, you’ll spend far more time waiting than writing.

Bottom line: Do you want to be a waiter or a writer?

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4 Comments on “When Waiting Leads to Writer’s Resistance”

  1. Joel D Canfield December 5, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    So “do you want to be a waiter?” made me think of this story Harrison Ford tells:

    His very first movie role, he was a waiter. Walked in, set the water glasses on the table, walked off.

    “Cut! Ford, what was that? You looked like a waiter!”

    Confused: “I thought I was supposed to look like a waiter.”

    “No, dummy, you’re supposed to look like an actor pretending to be a waiter!”

    When the interviewer asked him whatever happened to that director, Ford snapped his fingers at the waiter and said “Another round!” and then smiled really big.

    I don’t think the director was *really* their waiter, but I couldn’t swear to it.

    Waiter or writer. I’m gonna spread that all over. Super duper line.


    • rosannebane December 9, 2013 at 9:18 am #

      Thanks Joel for appreciating the “waiter or writer” line and for associating it with Harrison Ford’s story.


  2. Fredi December 5, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    I waited years and years for inspiration to find me. After reading your book, it took me 15 minutes to find it 😉

    I just finished writing a whole story. It may not be any good, but it is finished. I am proud of myself and on my way to a second one.

    Thanks for reminding us to stop waiting and start looking.


    • rosannebane December 9, 2013 at 9:27 am #

      Congratulations Fredi! It’s too soon to know whether your story is “good” and you’re very smart to start the next one. If I may offer unsolicited advice: give yourself a week or so to develop discernment before you go back to the story you just finished. If you realize you’re judging the story in terms of good and bad, stop reading. When you can read your story and focus on how to make it closer and truer to the story it is meant to be, you’ve got discernment. Revision requires discernment.
      And thank you Fredi! Your response to my book is exactly what I hoped to hear.


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