Inspiration vs Determination

Just sit down and write.

Write at the same time everyday; it trains your brain to be ‘inspired’ on demand.

Don’t wait for the Muse; just get words on the page.

Butt. In. Chair.

Professionals have schedules and deadlines; they don’t wait for inspiration to strike.

Image of man sitting at laptop

At some point, every writer’s seen some variation on this kind of writing advice that emphasizes discipline and advocates getting words on the page no matter what. Where the Muse is like that flaky cousin that breezes into your house to crash on your couch and eat all your food, promising they’ll pay you back before vanishing to the grocery store for six weeks.

I’ve tried this method in writing my stories where I nail myself to a chair and try to squeeze out a decent word count. And I did a lot – a lot of fidgeting, complaining, angsting, berating myself, there might have been a few instances of my keyboard flying into the wall…pretty much everything except writing (unless you count the 100 times I wrote ‘What’s wrong with me?’ in my notebook that one time).

White paper with the words Am I good enough written in marker

Did I just lack discipline? Probably. The most discipline I usually had to muster in my daily life was taking my pills on time, staying really still while being repeatedly poked by needles (because biopsies suck) and forcing myself to walk and function on a daily basis while in really annoying amounts of pain. Still it was either that or dealing with my mother, so there wasn’t much of a choice to be made. Either way, that kind of experience really doesn’t transfer well to making myself write consistently and it pisses me off to no end.

I love stories. Reading and playing around with worlds in my head is one of the things that have kept me less crazy than, by rights, I ought to be. And from the time I was in high school I wanted to publish all the wonderfully weird shit in my head. However, trying to make myself more disciplined and more productive and write consistently not only was frustrating (because it didn’t work for me), but it did something unthinkable. It made me hate writing.

I gave up writing. I gave it up multiple times, because the stories in my head wouldn’t stop showing up and shaking their assets at me. I tried again and I failed again and I quit again and then, days, weeks, months later I’d be back at the screen trying and failing again.

From all that I figured out two things about myself:

  1. I suck at this form of discipline. Really suck at it.
  2. Unless I was going to give up altogether and dedicate my life to food service, I needed to find a way to work, that actually works for me.

That’s been one of my goals for this year, analyzing my own writing process and trying to cobble together something that gets the job done.

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned so far it’s that inspiration is an absolute requirement for me to get words on paper (or screen). Some of my favorite pieces from my totally failed, but still fun and useful Story-A-Month experiment early this year were all spontaneously inspired pieces that were just wonderful to write.

And I’m happy to note that I’m not the only writer who’s noticed that they work better from a place of fun and love and not technically a place of dogged, determined routine.

Holly Evans, whose blog, Chaos Fox Writing (and how cool a name is that) is a fantastic resource for any writers who want to know the really nitty gritty of being an indie author. Her detailed posts about her marketing plans and sales are informative and she doesn’t sugarcoat her experiences. And, for someone who happily admits to being “one of those writers who only write when they’re inspired,” she has several published series to her name.

Can there be a happy medium where the work is work but still enjoyable? Where does inspiration fit into your writing? Where does routine? Let me know your experiences in the comments.

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