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Inspiration Gets You Nowhere
Inspiration Gets You NowhereWombat Droppings
by Ursula Vernon
So I was chatting with my boyfriend the other day about writing.
He writes, occasionally. Not much, not often, but occasionally. When I asked why he didn't write more, he said that he could only write when he was inspired -- stuff leapt into his head fully formed, he wrote it down as fast as possible, and then it was done.
With my usual tact and diplomacy, I made rude noises and told him he was using inspiration as a crutch. He took this with good humor and agreed, but I felt the point needs belaboring for the rest of the world.
Inspiration is not important. It's not vital, it's not key, it doesn't MATTER.
The problem, I suppose, is that it feels so awesome to be inspired that you figure that must be what writing (or art) is like, and if you don't feel THAT, you aren't writing (or arting) and thus can go noodle around on the internet with a clear conscience.
Um, no. That is what inspiration feels like. Inspiration is lovely. You also don't need it, and in fact, if you rely on it to get the book written, in the highly unlikely event that you finish it at all, you will be screwed utterly when it comes time to edit that book, because I've yet to meet a single person who got the fire-on-the-mountain muse-touched burn from dithering over their commas.
Nope. Writing (and art) is work. It is often dreary work. It is work where you sit down and go "What happens next?" for line after line, page after page, and sometimes you don't know, so you write something down and it's wrong and that's okay. Erase it and write another line. Erase the whole paragraph or page if you must. (Better yet, cut 'em out and save 'em in another file, in case you suddenly find the slot where they go.)
I'm as guilty of this as anybody -- there's stuff floating around where people ask "Will there be more?" and I say "I don't know what happens next." But you know? That's a lie. I could know what happens next. I just don't have the time or the energy to DO it, because I'm on the hook for a five book contract that's totally unrelated. If I had a deadline with money riding on it, I would sit down and write the damn book. I would shove myself back into that headspace, however difficult. Maybe I'd get inspired, maybe I wouldn't, but the book would get written anyway, because inspiration doesn't matter.
The only thing that matters is sitting down and going "What happens next?" even if you're dead wrong.
Nevertheless, I haven't written it, because there are only so many hours in the day, and at the moment the nice people at Dial Books have a pressing claim on my time.
"I don't have time," is, in this world, a legitimate reason. (Provided you actually don't have time, and aren't just moping about your garret wearing a beret and smoking opium, in which case you have time to write and more importantly, to invite me over.) "It's so much damn work I don't want to start on it because I don't think I have the energy," is a fabulous reason, because it is an incredibly true reason and I will extend my sympathy for it. Call it that. Don't say "I'm not inspired," because my response will be "And what does that have to do with anything?"
There are very few stories that I've written -- there's been maybe one that I can lay hands on -- where I realized that I was not capable of writing the story that it wanted to be. But that is not a Get Out Of Jail Free card for your writing... I left it alone for a bit, came back, sat down, and figured out how to make it the story I COULD write. And y'know, I could write it now if I had to. And it'd be a good book. I just don't have enough hours in the day to write that book right now.
Inspiration has nothing to do with it. It's hard work. It's sitting down and going "And then what happened? And then who said what?" over and over again, until at least a thousand words have passed and I can go do something else.
Stop being inspired. Bitch-slap the Muse. Knuckle down and work.
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