Who Needs Inspiration?

I’ve been reading a lot of writing advice recently. Don’t ask me why, since most writing advice hinges on style and method, which are personal to everyone. This is just one of my ways of killing time instead of doing productive things, like finding a new job.

Since I’ve been pretty much indiscriminate about which writing advice I read, I’ve come across a lot of contradictions. Sometimes the advice is meaningless enough that I don’t really care whether someone contradicts it or not. But some quotes on each side of a debate have stuck with me.

One thing people seem to be in disagreement about is the matter of inspiration. A number of authors advise writers not to wait around for it. If we sit around waiting for the inspiration to strike, it never will and we’ll finish our lives without ever having made our goals. Others say that it will come. Don’t worry about it. Better to wait and write something inspired than to wallow in bad prose, trying to push through a mental block.

I feel like I’ve been on both sides of the fence here, opinion-wise. When I’ve truly been inspired, I’ve taken every spare moment to work on my piece. I’ve been driven to ignore all temptations such as games, books, films, and the internet. I’ve neglected meals, because the end is always a few sentences away and I can’t bear the possibility of losing my inspiration and my train of thought just because my brain couldn’t control my body.

That being said, my moments of inspiration have come few and far between. When I was really busy on my MA, I only wrote when I was inspired. As a result, I have two pieces from that time – a completed short story, and the prologue to what I believe will be a very interesting novel if I can ever capture that voice again. I do regret that I didn’t spend more time on my fantasy writing during my MA.

I feel – and perhaps some of you do too – that the writing I do when I’m inspired is superior to what I do when I’m just writing because my story needs to go somewhere. But I don’t honestly know whether my writing is better. My judgment may be clouded because I enjoy writing more when I’m inspired. After I finished that inspired short story during my MA, I sent it off to a writing buddy. She tactfully avoided my questions about it and did not provide me with the critique I requested, so I can only assume she didn’t like it. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad, of course. I would ask for at least a second opinion before I decided to scrap the whole thing. It might, however, be something that should never see the light of day again, no matter how inspired I was to write it.

I feel as though my first drafts need more work when they’re uninspired, even if I’ve planned them out beforehand. However, my extra level of attachment to my work might cloud my judgment.

Does anyone else feel a difference in the quality of their work when they’re uninspired/inspired? Or is it just that things get done faster, so the draft is finished at lightning speed? Or does inspiration come in the ideas, rather than the more concrete written word?

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6 thoughts on “Who Needs Inspiration?

  1. My writing is better when I’m inspired but if I waited for inspiration I would never write. For sure. Like you, I’m a fantasy writer with an MA and got little written during my studies.

    • forgingshadows says:

      Thanks for your comment! I have another question for you: what do you do when it’s the opposite, when you’re completely uninspired? Do you push through anyway, or write something else for a little while, or take a break? I’m sitting on a piece now where I have a plan for it, but I’m completely uninspired about starting it and every attempt I’ve made has been scrapped so far.

      • I’ve taken a break before to work on a different project and them come back. Generally I have 2 WIPS in the works, one in editing and one in writing. When the writing gets too tough I give the editing another pass.

      • forgingshadows says:

        Thank you for that advice. Often when I move from one WIP to another, the first gets abandoned for a long, long time. I just need to be more disciplined!

  2. I’m a fan of pushing through. I definitely enjoy being inspired, but I think there’s a discipline to writing with plans and goals that allows the craft to be a profession.

    • forgingshadows says:

      You are absolutely right. I’m trying to be better at the planning part. My writing is definitely better when I know where it’s supposed to be going, whether it’s inspired or not.

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