Everyone talks about perspiration. Everyone talks about the long slog. Everyone talks about things like endurance and practice.

But what about inspiration?

I’ll be honest. I’ve never understood writers who find the actual physical act of writing painful. To me, there’s nothing more pleasurable than writing. There’s nothing more insanely beautiful than sitting down to write–either longhand or on the computer–and finding that your fingers are out-running your brain. To be so inspired that you’re not thinking as you write, that you’re just the vessel, the receptacle, for the words, which are pouring out as if they were your life’s blood.

Look, the slow slog is true. A lot of your days are spent slogging through, of just making the forced march necessary to complete a story/novella/novel. You can’t be inspired every day just like you can’t be madly, deeply, insanely in love every day. It’s just not possible. No one can sustain that. Your relationship over time with words, with stories, with characters, has to be deeper than that first rush of emotion.

But also, at base, that’s what it’s all about. It’s about the almost sensual pressure of your fingers on the keyboard or the press of the pen against the notepad. It’s about the point at which you stop thinking and you’re channeling something through your fingers and you almost don’t know how you got to that point.

You can’t be madly in love all of the time, but if you’re not in love some of the time, how do you continue?

I’m not suggesting that what one produces during blind inspiration/infatuation is superior to what you produce during the slow slog, but my god, why do you write if not for that moment when the world opens up before you and yet narrows to that singular point of pen against paper, that sensual drag of fingers across keys? Why do you write if not for that moment when you’re opened up to the point where there’s nothing of you left but the story and the characters and the words?

We live and we die in such a short period of time. Why waste your time doing something you don’t get pleasure from?

I get pleasure from writing. An obscene amount of pleasure. From the physical act of putting pen to paper, or of typing words into a Word document, unromantic as that sounds. And on those days when I feel my heart beating fast and my mind focusing on something unreal to make it real. When I rise from sleep full of story or moment or character or image and when I write it seems as natural as breathing…well, that’s a bit like knowing what it’s like to be alive. Of being reminded. And of something flowing up and through me, which whether it is from me or something greater than me, imbues me (and the writing) with the same feeling.

I know the excrutiation of choosing the wrong word, of knowing I’ve taken the wrong path. I know the deep disappointment of being unable to make the vision on the paper match the vision in one’s head. This happens a lot. Sometimes it is unbearable.

But, regardless, on a basic level, why does one write except for the pleasure of the physical act of writing—without thought, without intent, without agenda. But simply…writing until there is nothing to the world except for the story.

(Original comments to this “old blog” post can be found here. And, yes, it is a bit melodramatic, but so are most things deeply felt.)

4 comments on “Inspiration

  1. Jean says:

    I love the moment when the ending of a story comes. When it just… arises. Especially after I’ve just about given up on the story. That renews my faith.

    Physical pleasure: Writing with a fountain pen, for the smooth feel of it and my crappy writing looking artistic. Typing when I’ve just cut my fingernails so it’s just the pads of my fingers on the keys.

  2. There’s been a lot of slogging for me lately. Mostly because I’ve been in editing mode. But then I was just finishing up a short the other day on the train home and I had one of those moments, when your just desperately trying to channel it before it escapes you. I had to sit in my car for 5 minutes typing before I went home just so I wouldn’t lose it. And that, right there, is definitely my crack juice. I’ve got to imagine that it’s a little like lucid dreaming. That’s the only thing i can possibly compare it to. Because I’m right there and I wish I knew short-hand because it’s happening before my eyes, and I’m feeling it, and I just desperately want to capture it, crystallize it, just get it on paper so other people can see just how fucking exciting that moment is.

    Of course, then I reread it and, well… but in the moment: yes. Definitely yes.

  3. Jonathan: That’s cool. I spend a lot of time, I think, just priming myself to have those moments. It’s hard to have those moments *directly* sometimes. In terms of, you have to kind of distract yourself from the story or novel, and then, when it’s out of your mind, when you’ve released it, it comes back to you.


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