Do you need inspiration to write?
These writers argue that a practical approach helps them
March 26, 2012
While some writers find it impossible to write while feeling uninspired, others swear the opposite. They believe in hard work and determination. The writers below all share Thomas Edison’s belief that “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” So what motivates them to write?
Motivated by money
It’s unlikely that most writers choose to write purely for financial purposes. But while it may not be their primary motivator, it can be an important incentive to help them persevere. Charyn Pfeuffer, a freelance writer focusing on food, travel and lifestyle, says she wouldn’t have stuck with writing if she couldn’t make a living wage from it. “There is an element of passion in what and why I write, but at the end of the day, it really comes down to: ‘Will this client or assignment pay my bills?’ ” she says. She adds that writing for money has a practical purpose: It’s a way to keep her doing what she loves most.
Gordon Burgett, author of more than 35 books, says, “I’m afraid that if I waited for inspiration to drop from heaven, like that oft-rumored pot of gold, I’d be as unpublished as I’d be poor.”
Action trumps inspiration
Children’s author Kate Messner perceives inspiration as a myth that can actually be harmful to our getting work done. While she doesn’t entirely disbelieve authors who claim that inspired moments helped them write, she says, “They are the exception rather than the rule of day-to-day writing.” Instead, what gets her to her desk every morning are self-determination, drive and a commitment to her writing.
Messner likens writing to other things we may not be inspired to do, such as washing the dishes or exercising. “One doesn’t need to be inspired to do something in order to do that thing,” she says. “One really just needs to get going.” She says the simple act of putting words on paper can fuel inspiration, opening the door to more writing: “I really believe it’s the act of writing—not some divine inspiration over which we have no control—that makes us writers.”
Driven by deadlines
If you’ve ever written for a newspaper, you know the pressure that can propel you to write despite feeling uninspired. It’s what author, editor and former newspaper reporter Scott Morgan says he most identifies with. He believes when writers say “I’m blocked” or “I’m not inspired enough,” what they really mean is “I don’t really want to.” Morgan wrote Character Development From the Inside Out in about six weeks last summer as a cure for writer’s block, and to prove it could be done. “There was nothing inspired about it,” he says. “I just wanted to remove the excuses writers have and get them going by providing people with some practical advice and steps.” That—and a publisher’s deadline—motivated him to write the book.
Freelance journalist and blogger Michelle V. Rafter also believes that working as a reporter has taught her the importance of deadlines over inspiration. And, like Messner, she believes that writing often precedes inspiration: “Even when I’m not feeling the words, I force myself to work through it—more times than not, the next time I open that file, the writing is better than I remembered.”
If a deadline, paycheck or your own commitment to finish your story are not motivating enough to help you follow through, it’s worth considering what’s holding you back. Is it really that 1 percent inspiration you lack, or are you in need of the courage, persistence and perspiration necessary to write even on days when you’re feeling uninspired?
Brandi-Ann Uyemura is an associate editor for Psych Central and a freelance copywriter, blogger and features writer.