Waiting for Inspiration

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I’ve written of the importance of consistent writing before, but I think many writers feel that writing without inspiration is just busy work, or results in subpar prose.

There are bad days in writing, to be sure, where stringing a sentence together is like trying to reform Pangaea. Then there are days where you just feel it. The planets are aligned, your comfort levels are right, your brain is focused, and your fingers move with a swift ease across the keyboard.

Those days are rarer than the bad days, however, and I don’t even know I’m having a good writing day until I start writing. I’m willing to bet most books are written on 90% “bad” writing days. Those authors didn’t sit around waiting for inspiration. They hammered it out. Even if the words made them want to vomit, they hammered it out. Then they came back, deleted huge chunks, and hammered out the revision.

There’s a quote, which may or may not be from Thomas Jefferson. The locals claim the writer Stephen Leacock said it, but I imagine there are pockets of minor figures around the globe who are attributed with many similar sayings and given credit for the same accomplishments. Regardless of who first uttered it, it goes:

“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

More writing leads to better writing, and those bad days will always be worse than the brilliant and seemingly effortless days, but the margins between them narrow over time.

Yesterday I struggled, partly because I was editing a scene where a character spoke in the Odawa language and “past me” didn’t bother to offer up the translations in the notes. “Present me” had to look up the translations all over, but this time in reverse, and it was not easy. Even before that,  the words I was putting down in my native tongue were not that great. Today, though, I had no hesitance, no confusion, no urge to punch “past me” in the face.

Good writing takes time, and it is built on the foundation of bad writing. Make that bad writing solid enough to build upon, and the structures you can make will fill the skies and lift the spirits of all those blessed enough to visit them. If you wait for inspiration, you’ll be waiting in the shadow of other writers’ brilliant creations.

Happy writing, everyone! Be sure to Subscribe and follow.

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