Updated: Mar 3
I’ve collected journals my entire life. Pretty embossed ones with yellow butterflies, purple colored-ones with twisted vines, bright ones with cartoon elephants on the cover. Every time I bought one, it felt like a fresh start. A way to renew my thoughts, to begin a new step in the process of recording my life. I’d write and write and write and write...for about three months. And then it inevitably got abandoned, tucked away into some far corner of my desk, never to be seen again.
My writing for all of these journals had one thing in common: a strict schedule. Everyday—-or at least every other day—-I had to write something in it. Whether it be mundane (what I ate for lunch) or more creative (a short story or poem), I had to write. It was important that I write. It was life or death.
The problem with this approach was that I was uninspired. I wasn’t writing because I had something to say, or something to feel, or something to just get onto paper. I was writing because I felt I had to, like I’d gotten some fatal message from the journal-writing gods. The result? I wasn’t writing from an authentic place. I was writing how I thought I should, how a “real author” or “real poet” would.
One of the most infamous problems a writer faces is the dreaded writer’s block. I’ve faced it over and over again, and it has held me back from writing the way I wanted to. I’m almost certain that every writer has encountered this problem along the way.
You get wrapped up in work, school, family responsibilities, or just life in general. Inspiration seems to slip away, and writing—-whether is be journaling, working on a novel, or poetry—-seems more difficult than climbing Mt. Everest. The ideas are there, just simmering below the surface. But they can’t seem to get out. It’s like there’s no creative energy left and you’re sitting there wondering: how the hell did I ever write so much before?
For me, getting out of this space takes time. I can’t force my way out of it, so I try and let it go. But then one day, I read something. Or hear something. Or listen to a song lyric that gets me thinking of a phrase, an image, a feeling. That feeling is the basis for my next poem or whatever else I want to write.
Over the years, I’ve learned something from this. Truthfully, inspiration isn’t always handed to you. It doesn’t always come from the likeliest places, or even the same places you may have drawn inspiration from previously. It comes from the mundane and the unexpected. It can spark ideas that you didn’t even know you had, or things that you always wanted to say but never had the words to.
It’s in those moments that I understand why I love poetry, and why I love writing in general. It allows me to communicate what I see in the world: what’s important to me, what moves me, and what feelings or stories I think should be told.
Inspiration is a complex thing. Sometimes it can seem elusive, like it will never come to you again and you’re doomed to live the rest of your days with unfinished drafts and blank journal pages. Other times, it can seem to spring from everywhere and set you off writing like your life depended on it. That’s the thing: inspiration isn’t always simple or easy. But it doesn’t have to be. It can be as wonderfully multifaceted as the words you put down on the page.
About the Author: My name is Kayla Andry and I’m currently a senior at the University of California, Los Angeles. In addition to being an English major, I’m a movie lover, bookworm, and occasional poet.