In search of inspiration
I had some incredible news a couple of weeks ago: a short story I wrote has been selected to appear in an anthology. I’m getting published. There’s a pay check and everything. Are you freaking out? Because I’m freaking out.
To make the most of this, I decided it would be a good idea if people who read it and like it can then Google me and find more of my work. The only difficulty is, there is no more. Short stories are not my forte. My ideas are all too big and ungainly. I barely know how to contain a complete work within a few thousand words, but if I did it once, I can do it again. I just need to come up with something. I need inspiration.
Inspiration. What an exciting, promising word. It conjures thoughts of Pinterest boards and long walks in the countryside; of the beginnings of innovative, wondrous things; of art and creativity soaking into you and oozing out as if by osmosis.
Yeah, I should be so bloody lucky. I hate this part. It’s the ‘inspiration’ stage of writing that always has me questioning everything. Because a real writer’s head would be exploding with stories, right? A real writer wouldn’t be staring at the nonsense in her notebook – in the margin of one page I’ve just written ‘dessert’; was I hungry? Inspired? Who’s to say? – waiting for the story to jump out at her in 3D like that scene from Tangled. A real writer would be inspired by everything, and right now, I’m not inspired by anything.
And you can’t force inspiration – as anyone who’s tried to knows all too well. It’s like trying to remember a dream that starts to evaporate the moment you wake up; the harder you concentrate, the faster it fades to nothing, and the more desperate you are, the more inspiration plays hard to get. But what if you’re chronically drawing a blank? This is your career after all, you can’t afford to just sit and wait. Maybe you have a deadline. Maybe you really need to make a buck. So you have to dig deeper, squeeze tighter, maybe just *kind of* force it but seriously though don’t force it. Inspiration is the fucking worst.
In fact, inspiration as I described it above is nothing but a myth. Sure, maybe once in a blue moon a story will feel like it’s writing itself and you’ll figure you must be some kind of genius. But most of the time, inspiration will be a single line, or a turn of phrase, or a punchy first paragraph with nothing attached. Maybe you can picture a scene or an interesting conflict. But to capitalise on that little freebie, you have to do the legwork. You have to build around it, and keep building, even if the first and second and third attempts fall flat. Writing, like anything worth doing, takes hard work and persistence. That lump of clay and your own two hands are the only tools you’ll need – and the only tools you’ll get – and the rest is just you wrestling it into shape.
I guess the moral of this story is that if something matters to you, see it through. You’re not going to love doing what you love doing all the time, and you’re definitely not always going to feel good at it. But that’s okay, because being a natural at something – if such a thing even exists – is overrated. Your proudest achievements will be the ones you’ve worked for.