The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. **Mark Twain

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Do you need "inspiration" to write?

I remember sitting in a writer's conference and hearing Dennis Hensley announce, "Everyone in America wants to write a book." He went on to say, "Very few people have the drive and determination to follow through."

His comment made a valid point but I was sceptical that it was true. One day I was sitting in an emergency waiting room. I had my pen and paper poised and was scribbling away. I opened a writer's manual and read for a minute and then went back to my writing. A lady next to me asked, "Are you studying for an exam?"

I stopped and smiled at her. "No, I'm a writer."

"Oh, that's great. I have an idea for a wonderful story. I've never read anything like my story. I know it would be a great seller."

"Are you a writer?"

"No, well....I would like to be. I have this great idea, but I just don't have time right now. One of these days though." She looked up at the ceiling and sighed. " of these days."

Over the last three years I've met a lot of those people. They have great ideas but just can't find the time or the will power to put those ideas on paper. I think one of the saddest excuses is the one about "inspiration".

Five years ago a young man told me he was working on a great book. I listened to his idea and it was an exceptional one. Unfortunately, this young man is under the impression that you can only be a "great" writer when you are inspired. Putting words on paper and working through them later won't produce a truly inspired piece - or so he thinks. Recently I asked him how the novel was coming. "Not so good. I've just got so much going on in my life that I can't find the inspiration I need."

"How much have you done?"

"I've almost finished the introduction."

How sad. In five years he's only completed about three pages. Writing is a job that will not wait. If we are going to help people or spread the gospel or give society the information it needs for change....then we can't waste time. I like how Jim Denny deals with inspiration in his book, Quit your Day Job.

Habits are better than Inspiration

Over the dozen or so years that I've been writing full-time, I've discovered something about myself: My creative energies rise and fall. I have learned to become keenly aware of those energy levels. There are days when I feel creatively depleted. I don't feel that inner motivation, intensity, and drive to write. It's not that I feel physically tired. I just feel creatively spent, listless, and uninspired.

Yet there are other days when I wake up full of an inner fire, my mind bursting with ideas, my fingers eager to dance on the keyboard. I think that's the experience some people describe when they say they feel "inspired" to write. I enjoy writing on days when I feel inspired -- but I have found that such days are rare. Most days, writing is work. I enjoy my work, so that's okay, but rarely do I feel "inspired" when I work. I get my work done by simply being there and slogging through it, hour by hour, day after day.

It's my habit. I write everyday. On those rare occasions that I go a whole day without writing (Christmas, family vacations..) I have a vague, nagging sense that I should be writing. Something inside tells me that it's not right to not write.

That's the power of a habit.

If I only wrote when inspired, my output of published books would be a slim fraction of what it is today - and you wouldn't be reading this book right now. Fact is, there are many days I drag my unwilling carcass to the computer, slump in my chair, groan inarticulately, and begin grinding out my day's allotment of words. Occasionally, while I am sitting in that unwilling, uninspired state, I feel something come over me: the magic of inspiration. The words on the screen take on a life of their own. Ideas start flowing like wine. Soon, I find I can't type fast enough to keep up with the magic.

By the time I'm ready to stop, I've racked up two or three thousand words. If I hadn't started writing purely by habit, I would have missed the lightning bolt of inspiration when it finally struck. So, I write daily and diligently, inspired or not. As someone once observed, "The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair."

Habits are constant. Inspiration is variable - it comes and goes. That's why habits are better than inspiration. It is habit, not inspiration, that builds writing careers. Inspiration makes you feel energized while you write, but inspiration isn't writing. Only writing is writing and you can write whether you feel inspired or not.

(Used with permission)

So.....what are you waiting for???? Get busy!

God loves you and has called you to write,


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