Sunday, June 7, 2015

Waiting for Inspiration

By Rex Hurst

I often talk to my students or other aspiring authors about producing material. They ask me what I’m working on and I ask them about their routine; about how they go about the physical act of writing. I am one of those people who thinks best with a pencil, thus I write out everything longhand first. Many people seem to regard this as slowing the process down immensely. I see it as another level in the revision process, one where I take all the undigested bits of ideas and start to put them into a coherent form. A lot just want to dive right in. Nothing wrong with that, each writer has their own way of creating material. As long as you produce, there is no bad way.

That being said there is one phrase that I hear over and over again which almost guarantees failure: “I wait until I’m inspired before I write.” As anyone who has written a novel knows, a person’s enthusiasm tends to wane the more you have to work on a story. It ebbs away bit by bit, until you hit that 10,000 word wall and everything you’ve put together seems terrible. You question every single character, every plot point, every noun and verb, your ability as a writer, your very place in the universe! This is the precise moment when the joy of writing slips away and it becomes work. But that’s a fact you have to deal with if you want to finish a story.

There was a lady I knew who relied entirely on inspiration to spur her into action. She’d come up with an idea, then she’d talk about it, and talk about it, and talk about it some more, then, in a burst of passion, feverishly clack away on the keyboard. Gradually the passion would fade and her typing slowed down, eventually stopping altogether. She’d save it and print a single copy to store away until she gained the inspiration to continue.

I looked at that file once. There must have been at least 50 stories in there, some very promising, none finished. All of that work for nothing, because she didn’t want to put in the effort to stay with a story until its conclusion.

We all get inspired to write. An idea strikes us, bells ring in our heads, and the words flood out. It is an excellent way to begin. But waiting for inspiration to finish a piece is folly. Once the initial excitement is over, writing is work, an honest to God job. Anyone can write when they’re inspired. The professional writes when they aren’t.

So write! No matter what! Set a daily pace for yourself and stick with it. Even when your head is clogged with confusion. Even when the pen is being a beast. Even if every syllable is torture. Write! Write! Write! Force yourself. Because that’s the only way to get the job done. 


Jodie Smith said...

Welcome to the Cola II Blog, Rex! I find those who say they must wait for inspiration to strike in order to write every time to be cloying. You are right. Writing as a profession takes discipline. A professional does not have to write every day, but must know how to meet deadlines and how to be creative on demand. The latter, I believe, is the greatest challenge of my job. Others who wait for inspiration for every word of their manuscript should ask, "Is this my job or my hobby?" Or maybe I should not respond to blog posts this early. I'm a little snarky at 5 a.m.

Leigh Stevenson said...

Here, Here!