Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Inspiration

F*ck inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs. I’m speaking purely as someone who hopes to have a long, successful career as a writer. I can’t wait around for some muse to knock on my door with a manuscript in tow.

I believe in hard work and persistence—the two gods I pray to every night as I open my laptop in search of the right words. I believe in writing something daily—a blog post, a journal entry, a phrase from an earlier conversation—so I can keep that energy close to the surface. One of the nice things about participating in online communities such as Sunday Scribblings or Poetry Thursday is that I am constantly examining and re-examining my emotions. Rarely when I write a poem do I feel like I’m starting from scratch.

Also, I believe in the time that I spend away from my family to indulge my artistic expression. In fact, I think I am a better wife and mother because of it. Those weekend hours stolen away to write at Starbucks or late nights hunched over my desk goes way beyond being passionate. Yes, it’s true that writing is a journey. Yet, most days, my journey is the equivalent of chasing a mirage—and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Today I was rereading an article from the latest Poets & Writers magazine, writer and psychologist Susan Schnur was quoted as saying, “We live in a culture that doesn’t always value a writer’s need to write.” I don’t stay awake until midnight writing or wake up at 5 a.m. because I’m inspired. This is something I have to do. And in the process, I’m creating my own definition of what it means to be a writer. Unfortunately, the idealistic notion of inspiration does not fit into the picture.


GreenishLady said...

Oh... but January, hasn't something inspired that dedication, that determination in you? I see what you're saying (and bravo to your first line!) but while you're not sitting waiting for ideas, inspiration is alive and well and coming through you all the time!

January said...

Hmmmm ... more often than not, I'm driven by something else, but I don't think I'm inspired. Maybe I'm motivated by my need for knowledge and answers. But I'm not inspired in the traditional ways by family, or a spring day, or a full moon.

I think my motivations come from within. Or maybe we're talking about the same thing with a different name. But I really do think creation is born out of hard work, persistence, and consistency.

Angie said...

I think that's brilliant. I'd like to read the article in Poets & Writers -- I was just thinking along those lines last night: I feel guilty when I take time away from my family to write (esp. my husband, strangely), so I need to schedule blocks of time, as you describe.

Well-written, too, January - as always! If I weren't careful, I'd call it inspired. :)

bostonerin said...

Amen, P-mom. Waiting for "inspiration" to strike before setting pen to paper is silly.

Writing is WORK. Fun, thrilling, exciting....WORK.

Kamsin said...

I really love your no nonsense down to earth attitude to the writing process. I was finding all the talk of muses entertaining but hard to relate to, so its refreshing to read something who doesn't hold with all that romantic stuff! I wonder if your drive to write isn't just inspiration with another name though. Something, perhaps other great writers, the knowledge you have something to share, the need to make money from you talent, must feed that drive, don't they count as inspiration?
Anyway, your perseverance and postive work ethic inspire me!

Remiman said...

I agree with you in part. Somewhere,some time there was a stimulus, a kindness, a prompt, something to motivate you to take the path you chose. I call that motivating influence; Inspiration.
When I was eight I was inspired by Yogi Berra to be a baseball player. Bang! Then I showed up to play catch, play pick-up games everyday. Everyday I practised for ten years. I was inspired to become a Nurse Anesthetist by a Nurse Anesthetist. I went to school and I practiced and practiced. I showed up at the head of the table everyday..and still do.
Now I show up at the computer everyday, and I write every day.
Thomas Edison said it all when he said: genius is 1% in"spiration" and 99% per"spiration". Quote added by me. ;-)

January said...

Remimam, I guess if I went back to my first motivations, then hearing Allen Ginsburg's Howl and studying with some great teachers inspired me to write poetry. But that's not what sustains me.

Kamsin, maybe what I'm trying to get at does have another name, but I don't think my drive is fueled by greed or a need to be famous. If that's the case, I picked the wrong vocation!

wendy said...


I think those are fighting words...Gee I hope the muses have their ears covered...for your sake..

TI said...

I love your post, January. Moments of inspiration are gifts, but you're so right that it is the persistence and hard work that makes the difference. And I love what you say about respecting our need to write. If we don't respect our own need, then who will? Thank you.

thefirecat said...

Yep, that about sums it up most of the time!

I also now have to reread my latest P&W because I seem to have missed that comment, and it's crucial.

Carolee said...

perhaps the distinction here is the difference between those who wait around for inspiration to persuade them to write and those who write even when there's no particular impetus--just because that's what they need to do.

i can say that different things I've seen or heard (prompts or things in real life) have inspired individual poems but i agree with January. overall, i'm not an inspired writer. i'm a writer with nothing more than a longing and a commitment.

paris parfait said...

Your words resonate - my sentiments, exactly!

Kimberley McGill said...

So true. Inspiration may come, go or never arrive but my hands keep moving on the keyboard. I write every single morning (aside from journaling) for at least 2 hours - Not that I don't write at other times - But that is the time I will write do or die. Like I have posted before - sometimes it is all pure nonsense but it's in the nonsense I find the gems.

kj said...

hey! i like what you've written here. i like your gutsy determination. do you know about the colrain poetry manuscript conference in western ma may 4-7?

i'm wondering if it's a worthwhile publishing route and am checking into it.

your take on inspiration reminds me of the quote, "trust in god but tie up your camel".

best of luck..


Kristine said...

I loved this. I smiled really hard nodding my head in agreement.

Brian said...

Thanks for the kick in the pants. :)

gautami tripathy said...

Your post kind of jolted me out. I needed this.


chiefbiscuit said...

Oh yes! This is so well said! I hope lots of people - myriads! - read this. It is so, so true. Yay for you January!!!

jillypoet said...

When I was a young writer (with time on my hands), I thought I had to wait for inspiration, for the muse. Now that I am an old 30-something with kids and work on my hands, I need need need to write. Sometimes it's exhausting, this desire. But I'm glad I have it, finally, and I hope it just gets stronger (minus the family guilt).


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