“Inspiration Will Fail You”

 

by Kyle Massa

I had a professor in college who often said, “Inspiration will fail you.” She was very right about that.

Many authors wait around to be inspired. They wait for the muse to appear with an amazing idea, one that fills the page with vivid prose and vibrant action.  And when inspiration fails to appear, those writers remind themselves that tomorrow is another day, and they don’t write anything.

That’s why inspiration will fail you. It’s lazy, it’s inconsiderate, and it doesn’t ever show up when you want it to.

Sure, sometimes we find it. Sometimes our brains spark and whisper, Let’s write this down. But this is certainly not the norm. Far more often, our work hinges on those days when we don’t feel inspired.

Think about it this way: if you only write when you’re inspired and you’re only inspired on good days, how will you ever practice your writing?  Writing, like any skill, requires hard work in exchange for improvement. If we don’t put in the hard work until inspiration hands us an idea, then we’re probably not writing frequently enough to improve.

Furthermore, there’s a common assumption that every word one writes must be perfect, or that all writing should, at the very least, be interesting. This notion can preclude some writers from writing anything at all, regardless of how inspired or uninspired they might feel. But not all writing needs to be readable.

Every, every professional writer will tell you that a written work doesn’t even come close to being readable until the second draft, at the earliest. Even then, there might be three, four, five drafts to go before it’s something worth sharing.

If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe some dude named Vladimir Nabokov: “I have rewritten—often several times—every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.”

If inspiration hasn’t paid you a visit in a while, try writing anything—literally anything—and see what happens. Try a simple sentence of a character doing something: “Lilly looked out the window at the tree in the yard, and she thought to herself, That tree wasn’t there yesterday.” 

From here, we can go in all sorts of different directions. Where did the tree come from? How did the tree get there? And who is Lilly? What does she have to do with this tree? What does this tree mean to her? Sometimes, one sentence is all it takes to get things moving.

Of course, you might decide later that that sentence and all your writing thereafter was lame, anyway. Even so, at least you’ve written something down and you’ve gotten your practice for the day. Anything’s better than nothing, even if your anything isn’t particularly good.

Truth is, successful writers are those who write with consistency. That might mean something different for everyone, but what it certainly doesn’t mean is waiting for inspiration.

Trust me. You’re going to be waiting a long, long time.

 

 

 

This post is dedicated to Willette Pratts for being a patron of A Writer’s Path.

Guest post contributed by Kyle Massa. Kyle writes speculative fiction, blogs, some non-fiction, and the occasional tribute to coffee. 

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23 thoughts on ““Inspiration Will Fail You””

  1. If you ever wanted to run a marathon, you just don’t do it because you felt like doing it. You run that marathon by getting your tired body out of bed, usually before he sun is up. When it’s still cold and the only people up and about are the milkman and the police, and you run. You run because you have that bigger goal in mind and you’re not going to get there because this is the day you feel like it.

    Same with writing. You just got to sit down, and start doing something. OK, maybe it’s garbage when you finish, but garbage can easily be polished into something worth reading.

    All that to say if you wait to be inspired, you’ll never do it. Like running, writing demands a set of disciplines you just don’t get except by doing it when you don’t want to.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Perhaps inspiration fails because we aren’t looking for the muse. There are days one word can fan a flame. Sometimes, it can pie a color, a sound or the wind. The desire to write is the muse that makes the mundane inspirational. Just a thought. ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yesterday and today happened to be some of my worst days. I decided that I would not go to bed tonight without writing a blog post. I ended up writing three blog posts which led to a mental commitment to the “Don’t break the chain” for 365 to either write, schedule, or publish a new blog post each and every day. Inspiration requires action.

    I love the idea of writing literally anything. That is the beauty of inspiration. The sources are ENDLESS. One book that helped me expand my creativity and develop a consistent writing practice is Barbara Baig’s, How to be a Writer. – Thanks

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  4. This is incredibly true and I think the unfortunate thing is we so often relate “the writer” to some brooding person who only writes when visited by a muse (which seems to be on time for everyone else but a rattled doctor for me), rather than the more ordinary “sodding hell this is rubbish but at least it’s down” kind of writer. I absolutely used to be the kind of writer who waited for inspiration, until I realised I was writing rarely and would never get anything finished. There’s definitely that aspect of wanting it to be as good as possible the first time round and I think I used to give myself a really hard time if something didn’t come out as close to what I saw as finished as possible. I believe that’s because I felt talent rested on the initial writing process, and set aside how much of writing is in editing. Weird one, that. Great post. Sorry if this reply is a jambled mess, I’m on my phone and it hates me.

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  5. This happens often to me but with drawing instead. I wait for inspiration… well, I wait for a certain mood really. Would that be different? Still, the work ends up not being done and the longer it doesn’t, the less I can find the ‘mood’. I try to put this same practice with art but I just feel burned out afterward.

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  6. I very truly appreciate this post. I searched up inspiration because I needed it. I used to write short stories and playwrights when I was in high school and college. Then I started this blog, but ever since I started the blog I lost my ability to write. The creativity isn’t there, my mind is overwhelmed with work and bills and school. So it’s been so long since I’ve written. I want to write again but nothing comes to mind when I sit at the desk. Like you said, something is better than nothing . I will try everyday to write. That’s a start. Thank you.

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  7. I have tried this writing anything business and it has not been going too well for me. I have an inbox full of drafts and now I feel maybe I should not even attempt to write anything. I however, did try to do the logic about doing something when I am not inspired while working out and it worked like magic.

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