The Mingling of Inspiration and Goals

This whole blog has a lot of unplanned content written when I sat down to write. I’ll readily acknowledge that this is one of them. But I had some great ideas while driving home, and that inspiration led to the idea for this post.

Earlier this month, I wrote about how I experience inspiration. This idea is similar but is specifically on the intersection of inspiration and goals.

On the drive home I suddenly realized I wanted to write a sequel to The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan. I recognized despite my excitement, though, that if I want to finish my novel, I need to focus on that first. This idea is thrilling and has more appeal because it’s shiny and brand spanking new. But I committed to myself that I would finish my novel.

My approach to this dilemma is two-fold. On one hand, I won’t be giving up my goal of finishing my novel in 2019. On the other, I may allow myself to start the new stories after I finish the short story I started and in addition to any daily work on my novel I’m doing. Because I have a big goal and I’m sticking to it, I have to be strict with myself. I want to do both, but I have prioritized one over the other.

Inspiration has at least initially fueled all my story ideas, but it doesn’t decide what I do when. I wrote down the ideas I had, so I will more easily recall inspiration when I’m ready.

Why I Committed to Daily Blogging

I could have written this post when I started my blog back in July. The reasons for my commitment are the same. Now, though, I have over 140 blog posts since July 2 and over 60 days of daily blogging.

I’ve had times in the past that I committed to daily writing. Every time I eventually missed or skipped a day, and that made it hard to start again. I wasn’t writing publically, but I was writing.

I haven’t let that happen to my blog.

I write every day. I’ve made it non-optional. I am obligated to myself to write a blog post. Every. Single. Day.

The internal motivation is just as important as the results. If you can decide to do something and come through even when it’s just for you, what could you do for others?

I said on Twitter at some point, “I set out to write every day and I stopped doing it. Now I’m going back to that habit. I’m not a writer if I only write when it’s easy.” There will be hardship and trouble. I have to be willing to stand up and push on when that happens.

I have read a lot of writing advice, blogs, books, watched videos, etc. The one piece of advice I’ve seen the most in the last seven years is to write every day.

The best and quickest way to see improvement is to write every day. There’s no way around it. That daily practice applies to other art forms as well.

To demonstrate the improvement, compare my early post Struggling to Organize my Poetry Manuscript to my more recent post Organizing a Poetry Collection: What I Learned. The first is not a great blog post at all, and not great writing either. The second is a better blog post and better writing more generally. I picked those two posts because they are on the same topic, making them easier to contrast.

I’ve made improvement just over the last few months, as you can see. Other Praxians found marked improvement in their writing just from the beginning of the 30 day blogging challenge to the end. This isn’t just my experience, it’s the experience of Praxians and of the authors you know and love.

There were promised benefits of daily writing from the creative writing communities I’ve engaged in. Writers aren’t joking when they say if you want to be a writer you need to write every day. The most frequent complaint is that doing it every day without fail makes it feel like work.

Anyone who is seriously pursuing art will have to work. It is work, it will feel like work, but it is the most rewarding work I have ever done. Anyone who wants to have a shot at making money doing their art probably has to practice every day. The only writer I’ve heard about that made a lot of money and didn’t write every day is F. Scott Fitzgerald. He’s the exception, not the rule.

If you want to be any kind of artist, practice your art!


What I’ve experienced:

More inspiration more often — ideas and motivation for writing. Spurts of energy and artistic genius that are fleeting. That’s actually how I started this post. I read the Praxis email welcoming me to Module 3 and just knew, I needed to write about why I committed to daily writing.

Greater ability to write without inspiration. It’s not always bad, but I sometimes go into my blog posts without knowing what I’m going to write about that day. Sometimes I’ll get struck with inspiration, other times I have to fend for myself. It’s harder, but I can, better than before.

More ideas for blog posts and creative writing. By committing to daily writing, I’ve had to find ideas when I didn’t already have any. I’ve drawn on Recap posts for this, but I’ve also set out to write those intentionally. There are so many potential ideas, I just have to find something to unlock a new idea in my mind. Sometimes it’s for a story, other times a post for my blog, or for Over the Invisible Wall. It’s gotten easier to write when I didn’t go in with an idea.

Increased sense of productivity — not because I was being unproductive before or that it allows me to excuse wasting the rest of the day. Writing every day has encouraged me to do more every day. I started blogging daily, I should revamp my daily poetry writing. If I can do that, why don’t I work on other projects every day? It escalates. The more you consistently do every day, the more you can do every day. As soon as I gained some efficiency in daily blogging, I found myself with more time and wanting to write more.

Clearer writing — it’s easier to follow my topics and I’m better at keeping a blog post focused. Instead of ultra-casual topic switching like a conversation with an old friend, I have a focused discussion with the reader on the topic at hand. My recent series on self-publishing is a great example of that. I stay on task, keeping the post exactly where I intend.

Clearer articulation of my thoughts. I can more easily express what I think about a given topic. I had a lot of trepidation, but I wrote and posted Why I’m Not a Christian. I had an on-the-fly, unexpected conversation about religion with a co-worker yesterday. I was able to eschew fear. I’d already publicly shared my position anyway. I’m in the middle of writing a tough post on eating meat for Over the Invisible Wall. I have to write down exactly my line of thought so I can refine it into a cogent argument. It’s hard, but I’m getting there.


Some notes on it:

I knew going in that my writing would improve. I’d read about other improvements as well. Now I’ve experienced them. Every experience I read about from other people who did the 30 day blogging challenge had this in common. Without fail, writing every day improved the quality of writing.

I chose to go into an endless daily blogging challenge because I am a writer. I want to turn my passion into my career, and I have to improve as much as possible. I have to treat it as my job even now when I make no money. Sure, I’ve sold 3 copies of my poetry collection, but I spent more self-publishing than I got back from that.

I’m building up my body of work. The more I have made, the more I have to draw on later, and the stronger a signal I send that I can deliver. I write and publish every day. I have some work that took longer to make, and I’m open about how long it took to do it.

I’m teaching myself that I can do it. I’m giving my brain a lot of positive experiences. I wrote a blog post yesterday, I can do it today. I finished my poetry manuscript in two weeks, I can make another poetry collection in that time. The more I do this, the more I can beat imposter syndrome, the more I can conquer harder, more daunting projects.

Practicing my craft every day is the most valuable habit I’ve built recently.

The Nature of Inspiration

For day 50, I started a new series Behind the Scenes to give a look into what inspired my fiction. That post was about The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan (that links to part 1/3), my recent novella.

For Praxis this month, not only are we blogging every day, but we are reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It is a collection of short essays on the resistance everyone faces regarding their calling in life, how to beat it, and part three is called “beyond resistance.” After I finish the book I will write a Recap post on the book.

I’ve been thinking a lot about inspiration lately, in part because I’m reading The War of Art, but also because of Inside a Writer’s Head and drafting a piece about why I blog every day.

I frequently get random, sudden ideas for a piece of writing, new or in progress — this is what I call inspiration. I have little control over what ideas it gives me or when it presents them.

What I do control is my response. I either accept or reject the idea. Then I either use it, lose it, or record it.

I’ve gotten ideas from shows, movies, video games, advertisements, research, books, short stories, articles, blog posts, conversations, and more. My brain takes the input and says, “Hey, we could use that combined with something else or modified in this way and write about it!” for fiction. Or it says, “We should respond to this, or share this information, or write something combining this with the other information we have on this” for nonfiction.

It can be really messy sometimes. Sometimes I have the skeleton of an idea and no clue how to flesh it out.

Based on my experience, inspiration seems to come from my subconcious working to connect things and when it finally does, it feels sudden and unexpected. Because I’m not conciously working to connect, say, elephants, time travel, and romance, inspiration strikes when my brain does connect them.

Inspiration is usually an idea, but sometimes it is a sudden overwhelming desire to write. It’s a compulsion to sit and pound out words.

I felt this very strongly after the first Praxis Wednesday I attended. We met with Rob Goodman, who co-authored A Mind at Play, a biography about Claude Shannon. I recommend this post from Jimmy Soni, his co-author about their experience writing the book. I was inspired by Claude Shannon’s life and the focus he had on his work. I felt compelled to get to work on my writing.

This is a more infrequent form of inspiration for me, but it does happen.

When I get inspired, I’m infrequently able to write at that exact moment. That or I recognize that I shouldn’t start a new piece of writing yet. I have a lot of stories that are in progress. Too many. So often, when I get a story idea, I shelve it for later on.

Overall inspiration can be complicated and unreliable, but it can also be really helpful when I’m feeling stuck and need new ideas.

[Thought-Block] Partially Formed Thoughts (Poem)

This is a poem from Inside a Writer’s Head. Read more from and about the collection here.

Just too far from the reaches of my mind

An idea formed, it won’t come to my eyes.

Almost inspiration, trickling perspiration

As I work to overcome the thought-block

That prevents me from unlocking

The partial, half-formed thought I had.

It’s still not quite there,

As time passes, it fades into air,

Drifting further from consciousness,

From any semblance of acknowledgement

That I caught a whisper, a breath

Of whatever was there.

I simply didn’t catch quite enough of it.

[Self-Scripting Poems] Sands and Words (Poem)

This is a poem from Inside a Writer’s Head. Read more from and about the collection here.

Why do I so often

write poems about poems?

Why can those words

not stay locked inside my head?

I don’t know,

but they find their way to paper

on their own when they make a flow,

a river of words

etching into my mind,

my internal fabric.

Sometimes past poems

will flow again, partially,

never in whole.

Yet somehow I avoid writing

the same lines twice.

Amazing how that can be

when sometimes creativity

it is fleeting and fleeing.

But something springs up,

gains life and warmth,

later depth and breath,

gaining a voice I cannot control.

The words, the words

on their own

have always flowed

without my personal intervention.

I don’t know how,

but everything

writes itself,

though I may have said such before,

I cannot place quite when.

The words are

my Power,

but the sands of time

is all they bring.

Behind the Scenes: The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan

This post contains spoilers about my novella. If you haven’t read it, check out parts one, two, and three before reading this post.

Yesterday I released part three of my first novella, The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan. I posted it in three parts because of the length. I wanted to break it into manageable chunks, and two parts were still not right.

That all happened after the story was finished. This post is a look at ideas and inspirations I had while writing.

I don’t know the exact timeline, but quite a long time ago, a few of my writing friends and I were choosing writing prompts and sharing short stories. We all wrote from the same prompt and had the same amount of time to write. We started with every two weeks, then realized we were too busy for that to be adequate. It switched to once a month, rotating who chose the prompt.

Someone chose this prompt: “It’s been so long that no one knows why the walls were built. Nobody wants to leave.”

I recall wanting someone to pick it. I don’t think I chose it, though, if I remember correctly.

At first I didn’t have a clear plan. I just started writing and went where my thoughts said to go.

Then I named Kaashif Sarwan. Both parts of his name are related to exploring or adventure or discovery. I don’t remember exactly what meaning I chose, but both parts have the same meaning. Because that’s what he is.

Around that same time I realized this story should take place on Irqulnirn, in the N’Zembe system. I’d been thinking about the star system and how far away Irqulnirn was from the star. I created quarzyls to be the solution and explanation for how Irqulnirn could support life. I decided/figured out what was outside the walls and why they were built. That led me to write the Apocalypse of Irqulnirn, the background for this novella.

Once I knew how and why the walls were built, I had to go about the business of writing Kaashif through his journey to the top of the walls.

When I first had the idea for the dead world outside the walls, the conclusion was going to be bleak. Hopeless.

But because of how quarzyls “work,” and their life-giving abilities, I was able to work in a hopeless, depressed period for Kaashif and end with hope.

This story is as much about Kaashif as it is about my own journey with depression. Not literally or even symbolically, but experientially, to a degree. I wrote my depression into Kaashif as part of his journey, including the hopeful ending.

I changed as my vision for the story changed.

When I thought the ending would be bleak, I was in a dark place and wanted to reflect that artistically.

When my vision morphed to something more hopeful, I’d come to a more optimistic, hopeful place in my own life.

This post is a bit different compared to my other posts. I’ve never written about what the nature of inspiration in writing stories is for me.

This post also marks 50 days of blogging! In another 50 days I could do something like this again, provided I have a new story to write the behind-the-scenes for.

The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan (P1 of 3)

It’s been so long that no one knows why the walls were built. Nobody wants to leave. They are the tallest thing anyone has ever seen, and they stretch for the furthest distance anyone can imagine. Everything anyone has ever wanted is inside the walls. No one knows what is outside, what we are unable to see. No one has ever been to the top of the walls, no one knows how thick they are. We know they are stone, but not what variety, it is something we do not have inside this enormous enclosed space.

I will be the first. I will climb the walls. I will tell everyone about the world we have never seen, the world we have never known. I will document the measure of the walls’ breadth, length, and height. I will draw the surrounding land for all to see and imagine what I have seen with my own eyes.

Then they too will wonder as I do, will wonder what of the world we have missed, will desire to explore and know it, to understand it, to be in it. They will help me open a door in the wall to the outside, and a search party will explore and further document this land we have never known, the plants and animals and maybe even people we have never seen, never imagined existed.

Maybe they won’t want to leave the familiarity of it all. Perhaps I won’t want to leave either, after seeing what we cannot reach or touch. That is unlikely, but certainly possible. I want, at least, to see it before I decide. I want to know what is out there for myself, to no longer rely on the unsatisfactory folklore of my people, who have never seen what is outside either. If anything, I will at least inform everyone. They will know with certainty what the walls are keeping from us and if we are being sheltered from something insidious.

“Kaashif!” my younger sister, Nimshi interrupts my thoughts.


“Mother wants you, Kaa. Said for you to come inside.”

“Thank you, Ni.”

She nods, smiling, skipping away, presumably to find her friends. Her long blond locks trail behind her, bouncing with her movement, swaying from side to side. I smile, watching her for a moment, then turn and head indoors.

“There you are, Kaa. I was wondering. You were outside for quite some time.”

“Yes, Mother, I was thinking again. Do you need help with something?”

She smiles, brushing a strand of graying brown hair from her cheek, “No. I just wanted to check on you. See how you were.”

“Ah. I’m doing well. Easier to think outside is all.”

She nods. “The sweet air is nice this time of year.”

I smile, taking the knife from her hands and cutting the malna for her. The red tuber yields easily to the blade, the ashy rind only slightly difficult to cut through.

“You really don’t have to help with that.”

“I know, Mother. You always say that.”

She ruffles my ragged brownish blond hair. “It’s always true. You have more important work to be doing than cutting vegetables and preparing food.”

“So do you,” I note, finishing the first of the round tubers and starting to cut the next.

Everyone does. I have outdoor studies to take part in and people I’m to interact with. She has the garden, the sewing, and crafting to do here. Even Ni has responsibilities.

Mother nods, washing a handful of brelth berries, the small, lumpy green sweet berries found all over during spring. “This is true, but someone has to cook and keep house, and surely you or Ni don’t have the time to do it.”

“That probably applies more when a father is earning the money.”

Her face washes with sadness, causing me to regret resurfacing such memories.

Father died five years ago now. I remember crying, clinging to Mother at the burial ceremony. He had climbed part-way up the wall and fallen. Probably about thirty feet in the air, about ten feet below the height of our tallest buildings. He was so far from the top, but he had been determined – determined to at least see the world beyond this enclosure at least once before he died. He never did, he never will. That is part of why I have to. I must. I can’t let his dream die with him, even five years later. Even if he’ll never see it, everyone will remember his son as being the first who did, and as a result, remember him.

Tears prick my eyes, fire building in my chest as I remember my purpose, my calling, my mission. The one goal I have in life is to fulfill my father’s dream. Somehow, someway. I have to at least try, even if I die as he did. I will climb the wall. I will reach the highest point anyone has ever been. Hopefully I will reach the top and see beyond.

Mother doesn’t respond, merely pulls out another knife and begins cutting the brelth berries and extracting the hard seeds from the centers. I finish cutting all five malna for her in silence, turning to ask if she has anything else to cut.

“Are you all right?” I place a hand on her shoulder upon noticing her tears.

“Yes. Yes, Kaa. Thank you for your help. You can go back outside if you want,” she brushes the salty droplets from her face, giving me a quick sideways hug.

“Are you sure? I can keep helping you.”

“No, no, it’s fine. I can handle myself. Please check on Ni, though. Find out just where she went.” She smiles, gesturing for me to go back outside.

I nod. “I’ll let you know, Mother. Don’t worry.”

“I never do. Now go!”

“Okay, okay!” I jog out the door and in the direction I recall Nimshi headed.

I need to weave rope. Lots and lots of rope. One long, long strand. Strong, too. It needs to be able to support my weight and probably about twenty pounds more, too. Just as a precaution, and to allow me to carry supplies. On second thought, more than twenty extra pounds. I’ll need to gather vines, but they’re not on this side. They’re all the way on the opposite wall.

I’ll need to gather food, stuff that will last. Preserves and anything else that will keep. It’s hard to say how long I’d be up there, on top of the wall, drawing, measuring. I guess I could tie the rope to the top and climb back down, but I’m not sure I’d want to risk others cutting my rope while I’m away, or climbing up themselves. I want this to be my accomplishment. The Sarwan name will be remembered for having a dream and bringing it to fruition. For being the first to know what we have never known.

I’ll need more clothing, durable articles. Stuff that will resist wear and weather. And shelter. A tent, or something that is light and easy to put up and take down. Bedding, too. How long is this list going to get? How much will I need? How many trips up to the top of the wall will I be taking? Maybe I should build a house at the edge of the wall, and a fence too, to claim some property and have my rope secure. Then I can come down and go back up till I have everything I will need to go around the whole wall.

I have to assume the top of the wall is wide enough to camp on. Based on what I have learned about architecture, it is very likely the walls would have fallen if they were not, merely because of how tall they are. Unless the walls are somehow strong enough to withstand the shaking and waving a tall, thin structure would experience, they must be thick.

I pause my thoughts when I notice someone outside. When I come closer, I find that it is Mr. Chanrin.

“Hello, Mr. Chanrin, have you seen Nimshi?”

“Yes, I believe she went to visit her friend Kolora.”

“Thank you.” I walk in the direction of the Fertun household, hoping Mr. Chanrin is right.


“Kaa, what are you going to do after you finish school?” Mother smiles at me, bringing up a topic I had been avoiding.

I sigh, she would find out eventually, not that I want her to.

“I-I’m going to… I’m going to climb the wall,” I hold my breath as I wait for her response.

She freezes, her back to me, preventing me from knowing her exact expression. When she finally speaks, her throat sounds tight from the strain with which she chokes out, “What?”

I speak more gently, “I’m going to climb the wall.”

I watch her hands clench the towel she’s holding. She was in the middle of washing the dishes, refusing to turn and look at me as we speak.

She shakes her head, “No. No, you can’t. I can’t lose you too, Kaa! I can’t lose you the same way I lost your father!”

I put a hand on her shoulder in an attempt to console her as she began sobbing, but she pushes me away.

“You can’t climb the wall,” her voice shudders, but is the coldest I have heard from her. “Anything but climb the wall, Kaa. Anything. I can’t lose you! You can’t leave me with shattered memories of you and your father!”

My face falls to the floor in shame and I speak softly, “I-I’m sorry, Mother. I-I have to fulfill his dream. I can’t let it die. I must climb the wall.”

Mother turns around and grips my shoulders, eyes blazing, “No, you mus’n’t. You can’t leave me like that. You can’t leave Ni! She can’t lose a father and a brother also! Do anything else!”

Tears prick my eyes. “I have to do this. I can’t let Father’s death be the end of his dream. I have to try again for him.”

Her face turns cold, she looks away from me. She releases my shoulders and returns to the dishes, giving up on convincing me.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper.

She shakes her head.

I walk dejectedly to my bedroom, quietly closing the door.


I completed my schooling, building near the wall in my spare time. I had a fence and a meager structure. It was enough. I wouldn’t be living in it anyway. I bought a rinebark woven tent, hard but flexible, nearly black in color, insulating but breathable. It was perfect. The vine rope was under order, still being made. I lacked the skill to weave rope or fabric, otherwise I’d have made both items myself.

“Bye, Mother. Bye, Ni.” I hug them both, assuring them I would return, I would stay safe. The coldness that had developed between Mother and I, the constant attempts to dissuade me from my task, had worn on all of us. Even so, I could not turn back now, not when I have barely begun.

“Make sure you come back to me, in the name of Ouran. Whatever else you do, Kaa, come back to me!” she cries desperately. Tears are threatening to stream down her face, scared I will face the same fate as Father.

She references Ouran, the god of truth.

I nod somberly, “I will. I swear on Ouran I will, Mother.”

She tightens her grip on me and kisses my cheek.

“I’ll be coming back, probably sooner than you think. I can only take so much food.” I force a smile, knowing she’s worried, understanding why, but not wanting her to be.

“Make sure you keep your promise,” she says, a wild look in her eyes.

I nod, forcing myself to pull away. “I will.” I walk out the door, waving again to my mother and sister.

I walk a long, long time to the opposite wall. Probably weeks, but I lose count of the days. I’m close to doing it. Soon I’ll be climbing the walls, measuring things, observing the outside world. At least, assuming there is an outside world. If this is literally all there is, if oblivion lies beyond, I don’t know what I’ll do or how I’ll react.

Finally, weary but growing stronger, I arrive at the shop I ordered the rope from. The green-brown building looks worn, but not particularly old. It is not made of mud like most of our buildings. The sign in the window reads “open,” so I turn the doorknob. A bell dings as the door swings open.

“’Ello! Welcome ta ‘Vines an’ More,’ ‘ow can I ‘elp ya?” a grubby man behind the counter greets me.

“I’m here to pick up an order for rope. Sarwan.”

The grubby man flips through a stained notebook on the counter. “Aye, I’ll git it fer ya. Wait jus’ a minute.”

He turns and goes through the door labeled “Employees Only” next to the counter.

After the door closes he yells, “’Ey, Cropnik! Git the ropes fer Sarwan! The real long uns!”

“Aye, sir!” the response sounds feminine, but I can’t be sure.

The man comes back. “Should be just a minute. Cropnik knows w’ere it’s at.”

Cropnik, a short girl with her red hair in a boyish style, appears in the doorway. “’Ere’s yer rope!” She plunks two wide coils on the counter.

“Thank ya, Cropnik,” the man says.

She smiles at me before turning and heading back through the door.

“’At’ll be forty crenshins.”

I count out the money and pass him the full amount. He counts it to double check, and then pushes the coil across the counter to me.

“Pleasure doin’ business wit’ ya.”

I nod, “Thanks.”

To be continued…

This is the first part of my novella The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan. The first two lines, “It’s been so long that no one knows why the walls were built. Nobody wants to leave.” were the prompt that inspired the story.

This takes place on Irqulnirn after the apocalypse.

Part two will be available soon. Read it now by becoming a patron.

31 Days of Blogging

Today makes 31 straight days of blogging everyday. This isn’t the first time I made it a whole month, but it is the first time I paid attention in order to point it out.

I had a few days where I was unmotivated or uninspired. I didn’t know what to write or I didn’t feel like writing or both. Those days were hard.

I had a lot of help with blog ideas from the Praxis program, and wrote about what I was up to in the program in addition to the deliverables.

Finishing my poetry collection turned into a deliverable to prepare for month two, and I wrote about that as well.

Overall, I think I did really well putting out daily content and putting my thoughts and ideas on this virtual paper. Running this blog, maintaining daily posts has helped me build my writing skills, given me a place to share thoughts, ideas, and creative writing I’ve done or am doing. It’s building a huge volume of work to look back on in the future and signaling my progress, my dedication, and my hardwork.

It also happens to be setting me up for module 3, the 30 day blogging challenge month.

It’s been a great 30 days and soon it’ll be a great 30 more.

(Also, for those wondering if they should bug me about the video I promised, I’m editing it right now. It will be up either tonight or in the wee hours of tomorrow morning.)

“Busy-ness” (Poem)

I feel uninspired,

I look at the clock and remember

I haven’t written today,

and sigh because

I feel unmotivated

but obligated to push through

and write anyway.

So I do.

As best I can,

which is not as well as I’d like.

It’s easier

with an idea.

But I have none.

If you like this poem, you’d enjoy my poetry collection Inside a Writer’s Head. More details about when and where that will be available very soon.

This was written today. It is not part of the collection, but it fits with the theme of the collection.

“Train Inspiration” (Poem)

This was written 14 August 2018.

The habit matters more than the words,

For now at least, that’s true.

For without words

there can be

no masterpiece of a poem.

And without the practice,

how would I ever create it?

By writing each day

I increase my chance

of stumbling into thoughts and lines

that hook the reader

and outlast my time.

Not to mention,

I gain skill

and train inspiration

To come to me

Rather than hoping it will happen by.