I'm often asked to judge the inspiration category for writing contests. Without exception, I find very few entries are truly inspirational. Most are about the writer’s tragic experience or their indignant rants. Some are uplifting, but uplifting alone does not make writing inspirational. I can certainly understand the entrant’s frustration when he or she reads my critique because inspirational writing is so misunderstood.
The word inspire comes from the Latin word inspirer. It mean to infuse with breath, with life, to produce or arouse a feeling or a thought, to influence or impel, to communicate or suggest by a divine or supernatural influence.
When we read this definition, we think of it as a good thing, right? I know I did when I titled my first book Inspire! The tag line read, Writing From the Soul. When my book came out someone remarked, “You know, there is a terrorist magazine titled Inspire.”
Yikes! Thank goodness for tag lines.
Some writers equate inspirational writing with religious writing, but that isn’t always the case. People inspire all the time through speeches, songs, movies, even commercials—think Hallmark. So with all of this inspiration bombarding us, both for good and not so good, what makes our writing truly inspirational?
To answer this I came up with a term all writers are familiar with POV. Only instead of Point of View, the acronym stands for Purpose, Objective, and Vision. Let’s take a look at each of these.
Purpose is the reason—our intention—for writing a particular story or article. It is writing with our reader in mind, for their good. It isn’t about us. Our motivation is to impact their lives in a positive way, not impress them with ours.
Objective is our goal for the reader. It is the way we put legs on our purpose. We motivate our readers to action by activating hope, gently offering suggestions, giving subtle instruction, or conveying insight being careful to avoid glaring preachy verbiage or condescending, teachy ways.
Vision is about us. It is how we see things from our soul’s perspective. It is what is inside us as we write. This is the reason topics never expire. Think of a prism. The same light that shines through it bursts into different colors on the wall. We all see things differently. Therefore, if you have an insight or experience you know could help others, never be reluctant to write about it even if you feel the topic is overdone.
In my forties I decided I wanted to learn to snow ski. The instructor warned us to focus on where we wanted to go. For example, if the run was flanked by two trees, focus between them not on them or else we'd be face-planting a fir. Well, I never learned to ski, but his advice has stayed with me since. This is what inspirational writing does for our readers. It helps them focus on solutions and sail their way between life's problematic trees.
I love Edith Wharton’s quote, there are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
Inspiration’s POV is both. When we write with our readers in mind and for our readers’ good, then we have truly inspired.