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You are here: Home > Young Writers' Hub > Blog > Exploring and reflecting on the concepts of inspiration, writer’s block and redrafting. A young writer’s guide.
Exploring and reflecting on the concepts of inspiration, writer’s block and redrafting. A young writer’s guide.
Alex Teyen on the inspiration, writer’s block and redrafting for young writers

Exploring and reflecting on the concepts of inspiration, writer’s block and
redrafting. A young writer’s guide.

As a young writer starting out on my literary journey I have run into countless
challenges, obstacles and frustrations in the way of creating a piece of writing that I
am happy with. Indeed sometimes the obstacle is putting pen to paper (or fingers to
keyboard) in the first place. However, all challenges can be overcome and as such I
am here to offer some advice to young writers who are beginning their journey into
literature on some key concepts that can be vital to producing the best possible piece
of work that they can.

Inspiration

Without inspiration literature would be confined to restaurant menus and matter-of-
fact news bulletins. Where the words are the bones of literature; the inspiration is the
soul.

It can be exceedingly hard (if not impossible) to force inspiration if none exists
within you. Lack of inspiration does not equal lack of talent, however. Inspiration is a
fleeting thing that must be captured quickly or be lost.

So, how do you get inspired? How do you find your Muse? The answer is to get
active. Inspiration comes from witnessing events or objects that have a lasting
effect on your mind, something that resonates with you and opens doors in your
imagination, allowing the ravening hordes of ideas into your brain and onto the page.
What you need to be witnessing largely depends on what you plan on writing but
inspiration can present itself in the most unlikely places, so always keep both eyes
open and take in everything about your surroundings.

Let’s say, for example, that you want to begin (or are part way through) your debut
novel. You have most of your characters, perhaps some of them have been fully
fleshed-out, and you have the basic structure of your plot. However, you need an
interesting landscape for your characters to live in, love in and murder each other
in. To get inspiration for this you need to get outside, you need to go and experience
some landscapes first hand. Nothing can compare to actually being somewhere, the
human mind augments everything it sees with past experiences and existing pre-
conceptions creating a richer scene then what is actually there. So get outside because
looking at pictures on the internet for inspiration is like watching a concert from
behind a Perspex screen with earplugs in.

Inspiration doesn’t stop there though. Watch old videos of history’s greatest speakers
for help in writing stirring speeches, sit in the pews at a cathedral to feel the weight
of ages upon your shoulders and people-watch in a café to see the most interesting
characters. One simple experience can inspire and entire poem or short story and form
part of a fantastic novel, so take your notepad and your pen and travel around for
the day. You don’t have to go far; even just a walk around your neighbourhood can
harbour unexpected results.

Writer’s Block

Writer’s block can be one of the most frustrating obstacles in your literary expedition.
Sometimes writer’s block is due to a lack of inspiration, which can be handled using
the section above. However, other times the inspiration is there but there seems to be
something stopping you from saying what you want to say the way you want to say it.
Writer’s block can rear its ugly head in many forms, for example, you have hit a dead
end in your plot and cannot think of a way to advance, or you have a vague idea of
what you want to convey in a sentence but every way you write it doesn’t seem right
or gives the wrong message. There are various ways in which you can combat writer’s
block; here are the some of what I found to be the best:

1. Get off your social networking website of choice. I know you’re on it and
you know you’re on it. As tempting as it is to see how everyone else is doing
with their work, social networking is counter-productive and one of the worst
causes of loss of focus facing today’s youth. You’ll find that once you’ve
unplugged your internet the focus will come flooding back and a focussed
mind is less likely to succumb to writer’s block.

2. Simply take a break from what you’re writing. Go and get some coffee and
talk a short walk. Try not to watch any television as you soon get sucked into
watching whatever is on.

3. Eat healthily. This one takes a little planning ahead but is an effective way of
staying focused. Your brain requires proper nourishment to function at optimal
levels. Load up on protein, foods rich in antioxidants, juices, fresh fruits and
nuts, vegetables. You’ll not only feel great but your writing will reflect your
mood leading to you working faster and harder.

4. Reading material in the genre of what you’re planning to write can actually
make writers block worse, as it gives you the feeling everything has already
been said. What helps more is to read content from people/subjects not in
your field, as they see the world from a different perspective and will help you
get inspired to write something unique.

5. When you start to panic that you have no idea how you are going to write this
coming essay or piece of work I find that mind mapping really helps. When
you sit down and just think about one thing you know about the work more
and more ideas sprout from that one. Eventually you will have everything
you need to start planning the structure of your essay. This has helped me
countless times.

6. Changes of scenery are a sure-fire way clear your head and allow new ideas
to flow. For your best writing, you need focus, and if you go somewhere with
the sole intention of getting one piece of writing done, you’ll be productive as
you’ll leave the distractions such as your phone or email at your usual place of
work.

Redrafting

Redrafting is essential to any piece of written work. Nobody can sit and write a
perfect novel in one sitting, nor can they write a perfect short story or a poem. It
might be pretty good but you don’t want to settle for ‘pretty good’. Redrafting is the
process of turning decent piece writing into the perfect piece of writing. The first draft
you produce will be the bones of the end result, it will have inside it everything you
want to happen and everything you want to say. However, only through the process
of redrafting multiple times will the work become the best it can possibly be. The
key is to become self-critical. Use your redrafting to correct any obvious errors,
be they in the plot, the grammar or the spelling. Critically examine each sentence
carefully, is it exactly what you wanted to say? Can it be written any clearer? Could
I have used a more powerful adjective? Have I used that word correctly? Redraft
until every possible angle has been explored and you are satisfied that you have made
each sentence perfect. Then do it again. Do not rest until your work is flawless. Time,
effort and patience are the keys to perfect literature, so do not leave your work until
the last minute.

It has been a hard lesson getting to the point where I am in a position to pass on
knowledge and some hopefully useful tips. There have been many sleepless nights
trying to get work finished for deadlines and many days spent staring blankly at a
computer screen getting nowhere. Knowing what I know now would have made
everything a whole lot easier and so I hope this helps anyone struggling with their
writing to realise their full potential.

Alex Teyen is a young writer based at York St John.

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