Inspiration, Perspiration, Etc.

Recently I chatted with my brother, a “starving musician,” about the album he’s writing. I asked if he has a schedule or prefers to write at a particular time of day.

He said, no, that if he isn’t inspired, he doesn’t write.

My experience has been the opposite: If I don’t write, I’m less likely to be inspired. The more I write, or even just stare at the page, the more stuff happens in my story.

On the other hand, the relative quiet of the holidays reminded me that part of writing is not writing. It’s thinking, noodling, imagining. Of course, it’s harder to tell your spouse or your boss, “I need a few hours to think,” than it is to set aside time to “write.”

But it’s also really hard to think when your life is full of other things, noise both literal and figurative, obligations, worries, stress. And for me, it’s hard to be creative when the noise crowds my brain. I need space in there for my characters to roam around, and time for the roaming to happen. And then I need time to write, so the inspiration doesn’t get lost.

Of course, sometimes, what seems clear in my head becomes muddied when I try to set it down. And that’s where writing as inspiration comes back in. It’s a really imprecise and sometimes maddening process, the interaction between inspiration and perspiration, particularly for someone writing a first novel, with no outside pressure from an agent or editor or deadline. The lack of pressure is both a blessing and a curse.

I’m also aware that without an initial inspiration, I wouldn’t be working on a novel at all. Some magical quality makes certain ideas stick and inspires us to follow them to their furthest possibilities.

What’s your relationship to inspiration, whatever your creative outlet?


2 thoughts on “Inspiration, Perspiration, Etc.

  1. Sarah

    Yes, yes, yes, to all of that!

    For me, also, at the very very beginning of this process, there’s also a dance between inspiration and intimidation. As in, I feel inspired to write, but I also feel intimidated by the blank page or by the difficulty of carrying out what I want to say, and then I begin listening to the outside “noise.”

    But then again, some of that noise really does come from legitimate obligations clamoring for my attention. (It *is* hard to carve out the time, I’m not just procrastinating. But I also am procrastinating, a little bit.) The level of honesty–about oneself, one’s characters, the structure of one’s narrative, etc.–required to successfully write a novel is pretty humbling.

  2. Carol Ann Hoel

    Inspiration comes to me in different ways. Sometimes, determined to write, I pull up the keyboard and just begin. I’ll start out and slowly words will come. Other times, I do the same thing and have to put back the keyboard without success. Once in a while I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with a strong inspiration on my mind. I wait to write until the next day, and sometimes the thought blossoms into writing. At least once I got out of bed in the middle of the night and began to write. The words poured like rain into my document. Blessings to you…


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