Professional writers often talk about the relative unimportance of “inspiration,” that nebulous condition under which someone working in a creative field feels a sudden compulsion to, you know, actually do something. Ultimately, writing is work, and as such it’s unrealistic to wait until one is sufficiently inspired to get down to business. Here are two of my favorite quotations* on dealing with inspiration, or its absence, from the perspective of a couple of writers who can speak credibly on the matter.
“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
– Jack London
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
Swing That Club
So inspiration is overrated, if not quite useless. It’s true that you can’t wait for it–you might never do anything if you do–but having it doesn’t suck. It’s nice to wake up and feel called to what you do, to want to do it for its own sake as opposed to out of a sense of obligation, responsibility, fear or whatever else.
And as a writer, on an occasional glorious morn, when the light shines just right and you’ve had just the right amount of coffee, an idea weasels into your brain in such an insidious fashion that you cannot contain your desire to get it onto the page. Apart from the story Hunger, all the short stories shared on Lost Caws came about in that fashion. An idea came to me more or less fully formed, and I worked quickly to act on it. Only Witness was written without an ending in mind. Many blog posts are like that, too.
Man, it feels gooooooodddd when that happens.
But the opposite is also true. Just because you can’t wait for inspiration, doesn’t mean its absence isn’t irritating. You get tired. You get burned out. You get irritable. Hey, this stuff just happens! It’s part of being human, right? For example, when it came time to write this morning, I tidied my work space, organized the items on my desk, and sat down to get to work.
But this is how I felt about it. WARNING: CAT PROFANITY!!!
So, now that I’ve got that out of my system, it’s time to get out that club and go hunting for some inspiration. I’ve got word counts to hit.
*Here’s a little word nerd action for ya as well. People use “quote” pretty much interchangeably with “quotation.” But those people are WRONG, and I’m here to shame their wrongness.** Here’s the simple difference. Quote is a verb and quotation is a noun. Above, I quoted two quotations. But you know what? It’s so common to use “quote” as a noun that I honestly think it’s likely “quotation” will one day be more or less obsolete. There are plenty of verbs that are also nouns, so I don’t think we’re losing much when quotation is put out to pasture. If we can chant chants, lock locks, and wish wishes, why can’t we quote quotes? We can, I tell you, and someday, we WILL.
**I don’t actually care that people do this, but I do find the evolution of word usage interesting.