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The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

I asked my students to come up with a plan for the future of their writing lives. If they want to continue writing outside of class, how will they motivate themselves? What will inspire them? Where will they go to write? Who will they ask to read their work?

Many of my students decided that forcing yourself to write just ruins the experience. You should write when you feel inspired and not worry about making it happen. If you must force yourself to write, you probably shouldn’t be doing it anyway.

I both agree and disagree. I must force myself to write. I love the act of writing but sitting down to a blank page or a story that I know needs a lot of work makes me anxious and exhausted. If I didn’t force myself to tackle these things, I’d never probably never write anything.

Based on my students’ logic, I should probably just stop trying.

However, I do try because I know that, once I start, I will enter my “happy place”. Once I find my momentum or start tinkering with words and sentences, I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing. And usually, when I force myself to sit through the uncomfortable feeling of beginning – even if I don’t finish with something perfect (I never do) – what I do gain is something more than I had when I started, which was nothing.

If I updated this blog only when I felt inspired, I’d probably never update it at all. Having an active blog is important to me so I stick to a schedule. Many times, when I sit down to write a blog post, I have no idea what I’m going to write. But I always write something, and I usually surprise myself – sitting with my thoughts for a few minutes reveals that I have more than a few things on my mind. And, even though many of my posts are far from perfect, at least I can see that I have something written where nothing before existed. I can only move forward from there.

I frequently feel inspired, but I don’t always feel like writing. When I was younger and had more free time, I could sit down with a pen and paper and capture every inspired moment. Maybe my students take for granted the time they have to daydream document their thoughts. These days, when I feel inspired, I’m probably busy with something else or about to fall asleep. But carrying those thoughts, when you’re inclination is to write them, can be a huge burden.

In an interview with the Paris Review, writer Fran Lebowitz said, “…I realized how much easier it is to write than not to write. Not writing is probably the most exhausting profession I’ve ever encountered. It takes it out of you. It’s very psychically wearing not to write—I mean if you’re supposed to be writing.”

Scheduling time to write can be cathartic. I know that when I force myself to write, even if I don’t immediately feel inspired, eventually something will spark emotion or an idea. If I don’t necessarily feel inspired to work on one thing, then I scrap it temporarily. But I won’t stop writing. I’ll focus more closely on my blog or try to develop another story or poem.

Anyway, if you’re serious enough about writing that you want to develop it to the point of completion, you’ll have to revise. Revision is not easy; you’ll have to be honest with yourself and trudge through something that you likely don’t want to revisit. You’ll most likely have to force yourself to revise, but knowing that you’re most likely improving the piece helps.

As a class, we concluded that, if you have interest in writing for yourself only, then you can wait for inspiration to strike. But if you have interest in writing for an audience, any audience, you are going to have to motivate yourself beyond waiting for that aha moment.

(Photo by Bohman)

One Comment

  1. I don’t have the luxury to wait for inspiration when I write my non-fiction. I have a deadline and ready or not, (that’s 50/50), I need to jump off at some fixed point and write the thing.

    Since at this point I have not been paid for any of my fiction, I do take more time with it. My current novel has gone through months long phases wherein I am not inspired, and so I don’t force it. Fiction for me is less common, and a bit more delicate. More easily spoiled, or scared off. So I nurse and milk my fiction. For now. I need to do so as I become more acquainted with it. Perhaps one day I will be able to just sit down and write more fiction. (Nanowrimo DID help me with this a great deal). And if I ever find myself making money from my fiction, I certainly will have to develop a more communicative relationship with the parts of my mind and spirit responsible for fiction. But for now I guess one could say we are still courting. We have yet to find that stride. Non-Fiction and I have had a mostly smooth running marriage for a while now.

    Hopefully my current novel will be successful enough to prove that my fiction has as much power to move people as my non-fiction tends to do, and thus help me find a way to dice into fiction more often as I do for non-fiction.

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