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 The ever-present question of the necessity of inspiration when writing


This seems to be a recurring subject among writers: is it necessary to be inspired when you’re writing your novel?

Someone recently said to a writer friend of mine: “If you’re not inspired, you’re writing the wrong story.”

Here’s some context: this guy I’m talking about introduced himself as an author, though (to my knowledge) he has not yet published anything or finished a book. (And don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not criticizing him for it! I’m in the exact same situation). He said this while some friends and I were discussing writing, and one was saying that he was uninspired to write. The friend that he said it to took it really hard and started doubting his passion.

This one simple, seemingly innocent sentence really got stuck in my mind.

Is that true? If you don’t feel inspired as an author, does that mean that you’re wasting your time, and should look for another idea? Or just – what… Wait for inspiration to “hit” again?

So as it took up an annoying amount of space in my brain that I needed for other stuff (important stuff. Like remembering the directions to this tiny little shop I went to once while on vacation, where I’ll probably never go again because it was terrible. But I need to remember exactly where it is.), I decided to get more opinions from my fellow writers on Twitter (see the thread here).

The replies I got were very interesting and pretty much split down the middle. Many agreed that inspiration is 100% necessary, while others argued that that’s simply not possible. At some point or other in your story, you just won’t feel the same excitement and inspiration that you did at first.

So I’m going to go out on a limb here and give my own opinion on this matter.

Why inspiration when writing is overrated

Don’t get me wrong.

I believe in inspiration and its importance.

I just think it’s overrated. And quite frankly, put a little on too high a pedestal.

See, to me, inspiration is an absolutely necessary part of the beginning of the writing process.

Writing takes so much out of you that, to me, if you’re not passionate about it when you start, you don’t stand a chance at ever doing anything with it. And it’s just going to go and die in your folder of half-written drafts. (I know you’ve got that folder, you can’t hide it from me.)

To me, your inspiration needs to carry you to the point where the story takes on its own shape, and you start to feel that it’s got a life of its own. From that point, it can then carry itself but yeah, it’s going to take a lot of sweat and tears and screaming on your part. And burning of laptops. (Here’s a life hack for you: make a few fake laptops out of cardboard, and then burn those! It’s actually a lot cheaper that way, rather than burning your real laptop and having to buy a new one… Who knew?)

Writing is a grueling process. I don’t think a single writer would disagree with me on this. Getting the first draft on the page is tough; powering through when you feel like you can’t and your story is fighting you tooth and nail. And when the first draft is finally done, then comes the editing (multiple times usually. Because it’s hair-pullingly fun to edit. The kind of fun we writers thrive on.), the beta-readers, more editing fun, and doubt. Actually, doubt is usually there for the whole ride. Loves keeping us company, that one. So sweet.

So… inspiration when writing, yay or nay?

Well… Both.

For me, inspiration has to be there at least to begin with. It’s just too hard otherwise.

And this is what I think the people who agree with the above statement mean (sorry if I’m wrong, guys! 🙂 ). That you need inspiration to begin.

I don’t think anyone is going to feel inspired throughout the entire process of writing their novel. It comes and goes, ebbs and flows. Sometimes words pour out, and at other times your brain can’t seem to remember what the purpose of words even is.

But you were still inspired to begin the story.

One person had an interesting take on things though. To him, inspiration is what gets you started, pushes you to write your first story. But as he says, one story isn’t enough if you want to make a business out of writing. You need to write more, and this is where inspiration might fail you. Because of this, he says that sometimes he writes stories he’s not inspired to write because it’s stories he thinks his readers will want to read. But even if he’s not inspired, he’s interested.

Others argued that if you write while you are not inspired to do so, it shows and your writing suffers from it.

To some degree, I agree with this. If I sit to write when I am not in the right state of mind, no matter how hard I try, the words just don’t flow. It’s much harder work to get any words out, and those that come are the wrong ones. They don’t fit, and they don’t flow.

And yet, this is the only way I know that works for me to get inspiration back. By writing. No matter how bad it is, I need to play with words and ideas, and sooner or later inspiration comes back.

And when it does, I usually have to start all over. 

Fun, fun stuff!

But that’s the way the writing process works. You write trash so you have something to edit. You write, and then you change it.

I don’t think you should just wait around for inspiration to find its way back to you. It doesn’t work that way. You have to provoke it, poke it, blow in its ears, flick its nose, and just keep annoying it until it finally acknowledges you again.

Especially if you want to write as a career.

Because if that’s the case, you have to treat writing like your job; you don’t always want to write, but you should. If it’s bad, you edit it later. Give yourself permission to write trash; you can always come back and delete it.

But write.

In short, you might only keep what you write when you are inspired, but you should write even when you’re not.

Yes, it’s hard. But that’s just part of the game.

If after this deep and wonderful article, you’re still feeling stuck, here’s a post I wrote about how to stay motivated as a writer! Check it out!

Is inspiration necessary when writing your novel? | J. E. Masterman | | jemasterman.com

What do you think? Is inspiration necessary, or is it overrated? Do you write only when inspired, or every day, no matter what?


Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear!

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