We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action. —Frank Tibolt
Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time… The wait is simply too long. —Leonard Bernstein
I am not the person to ask about inspiration. Mostly, I don’t believe in it — not in the popular conception of inspiration, where a lightbulb goes off in your head and suddenly you are inspired and your fingers start flying over the keyboard. Sure, that can happen, but as Bernstein says, you can’t rely on that happening. Writing is hard work, work that relies on learning and applying a varied set of skills, and finding out what those skills are, learning and practicing them, is always better than waiting around for inspiration. To quote Kristi Holl’s Writer’s First Aid:
Writers who wait for inspiration before they decide to write are generally known as hobbyists. Working writers-those actively writing and growing in their craft-must write whether the muse is “in” or not.
A much longer essay of mine on the topic.
A fantastic speech by Elizabeth Gilbert about genius, inspiration, and fear.
“But I’m not talking about inspiration! I’m talking about motivation!” you say. “I keep getting distracted while I’m supposed to be working. I keep wanting to give up. I get frustrated and impatient.”
Okay, I’ll introduce you to the Secret Writer Mantra. Professional writers return to it again and again to get them through the books they’re writing.
Here’s what it stands for:
Butt In Chair. Hands On Keyboard. (No, I didn’t make that up.)
Sit down. Type. There is no secret formula to prevent you from becoming bored or distracted. Writing is work, like any work. It is not more fun or automatically not boring just because it is writing or because the story itself is exciting. Maybe you found the “actual writing” part easy, and revisions difficult. The problem there is that editing and revisions are also writing. They are just as necessary a part of the process as banging out a first draft. I know this isn’t very fun advice, but try to keep this in mind: how hard you work, unlike random inborn talent, is entirely up to you. If you work hard and complete your work, you’re ahead of 99% of people who want to write a book. Try to think of it as . . . inspirational.