Inspiration vs. Perspiration

Every serious writer — that is, people who write when they’re not compelled to by class assignments — knows what it’s like to run out of inspiration. When this happens, most of us stop writing, sometimes forever. That’s because every day you don’t write makes it twice as hard to pick up where you left off. If I had one piece of advice to give to every beginning writer on the planet, it would be to write every day, whether what you write is any good or not.

Embarrassing as it is to admit, I was a FictionWriting major in college. Which means I ought to have learned all about technique before I ever made it to the real world, right? Absolutely wrong. I don’t recall hearing much except that you shouldn’t start a sentence with “There” or write in fragments, or plagiarize. What you should do, I was told, is to explore your Inner Rage.

Maybe that’s no longer true. I went to school during the Basket Weaving Is As Valuable As Mathematics-era, which I guess would bring out anyone’s inner rage. What I’m saying is that I think it’s dumb to “teach” content, when we all have zillions of stories to tell, and enough inner rage to bring a fleet of Titan rockets to lift-off, and not teach things like How to Write a Realistic Conversation (it’s nothing like a REAL conversation, which is full of idiocies and empty courtesies), or How to Deliver Backstory, or How Point Of View Affects Plot Development. These are the things I would teach if I were teaching, because they’re the tools we use every day, whether we feel rage or bliss or untrammeled horniness.

Probably the most important tool, though, is knowing how to write without inspiration. I think that many a would-be writer has set down his pen in despair for lack of this one very valuable piece of information.¬†Briefly, it is this: Whether you write in the heat of inspiration or plod along in your left brain, constantly correcting and tweaking, THE RESULT IS THE SAME. I’m serious. Inspiration just enables you to write faster and have more fun; it doesn’t ensure a better end product. I was amazed when I first realized this, amazed and thrilled, because it means that when you are empty, when your mind is as electrifying as cold farina, when you know nothing about your subject, when you’d rather be scrubbing the bathroom floor with a toothbrush than writing, you can still write well. It may take longer, and you’ll almost certainly have to rewrite at least some of your work, but you won’t be writing stuff you have to throw out.

So have faith. You CAN do it,. It WILL get done. Beauties aren’t always born beautiful. If you don’t believe me, look at your own baby pictures. And then write about them.