desperately in need of inspiration

Writers need constant inspiration, Naturally, this is true of humans in general, and more specifically, of artists in all media.

But I will argue (right now, in fact) that writers need more inspiration than anyone else, for 6 reasons (having said 6, I now need to find 6 really good ones--there are, of course, hundreds.)

1. The writer uses words as his or her artistic medium, and words are clumsy great things that wear you out.

Expressing an artistic impulse is never easy, but I think that people who sketch, paint, create with textiles, sing, play an instrument, sculpt, or stack up boxes as performance art all have it easier than writers. All those people have one major instrument they can hold in their hands: pencil, brush. bobbin, throat, piccolo, clay or boxes. They can draw inspiration from the instrument itself as well as from  their poor aching brains.


Writers, on the other hand, are faced with an infinite multitude of instruments: words. Each word has so many connotations, denotations, combinations and permutations that it makes me dizzy. No word is innocent; all have committed serious crimes and continue to trip up the unwary.

If, like me, you have taught English to both native and non-native speakers, you can never trust a word again. Each one is turned over, scrutinized, and second-guessed until you are sick of the whole idea of putting some of them together and calling it writing. You just want to have a nice lie-down until dinner.

2. Writers are very easy targets.

Most people who read can also write. Not all, of course, as reading is passive and writing is active. More or less. But it's a fairly safe bet that the people who read what you write can also write themselves. Therefore, they can criticize.

Édouard Manet - Lecture de l'illustré

Some critics focus on the mechanical things, like spelling and commas. Others will have issues with word choice and sentence structure. More educated readers will make fun of your plot, or say you need more/less back story, or tell you your characters are boring or unlikeable. This can go on forever, and it eats away at your writer's soul.

3. You will inevitably bore yourself silly

Calude Monet--Waterlilies
I don't know if Monet ever looked at a canvas and said, "I'm so over water lilies," but I know that I get so tired of my own writing voice that it makes me sick. Really. I have a deep need to say what's inside me, but an equally deep need to get away from myself. The whole point of writing, for me, is the desire to express (Middle English, from Anglo-French expres, from Latin expressus, past participle of exprimere to press out, express, from ex- + premere to press) an idea or emotion. Once I've expressed it, I have no desire to live it all over again. It's out now, and I am relieved, not inspired.

4. But you must review, rewrite and make more perfect

In #3, I expressed the idea that I don't want to keep going back to what I have written ("As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly." Proverbs 26:11. This is not the most inspirational verse in the Bible.) Going back over what I've written is pretty much torture. But it's necessary, so I don't look like a careless fool. For every minute I write, no doubt I review and rewrite 5 minutes. That is tedious, and must be slogged through with my head down, ignoring the world, like a prisoner in a chain gang.

5. Writers are delicate blooms

Most artists can claim some superiority to the critics because they have solid skills that set them apart. I, for example, cannot blow glass, so my criticism of blown glass can be laughed away by anyone who can.

Writers, though, have the same tools as any literate person: words. The skills that come with writing are mostly the result of hard, repetitive work rather than birth-bestowed genius. I imagine some people are born writers, but they all have to learn the same basic set of skills as everyone else, so they don't feel as special as, say, someone who can coax pleasant sounds out of a tuba.

Since they don't have the shield of rare abilities, writers are pretty much defenseless. My writing is the expression of my soul, and it takes all my courage to put it out there for people to read. Any negative reactions, from laughing out loud at my most serious thoughts to simply ignoring me, hurt much more poignantly than if I were someone with such a esoteric talent hat no one could even understand what I was doing, let alone trample on it.

Delicate blooms come up first in the spring--the crocus

Crocus longiflorus5

Galanthus nivalis, snowdrops in the snow
They probably need some inspiration to stick up their tiny heads in the knowledge that the snow, the cold wind and someone's boot steeping on them are possible outcomes. Brave ones!

6. Writers are isolated, cranky people

Okay, I said it. As much as writers would love to be seen as sociable bon vivants who entertain their friends with fascinating tales on cold winter nights (or sophisticates enjoying the high life in literary circles), the truth is that you have to lock yourself in your own head to write. If you can close the door, so much the better, but if not, you must close your ears. When your loved ones come with their cheerful voices, wanting to share their triumphs, it's all you can do not to shout "What! I almost had the word I've been searching for the past 10 minutes! What do you want?"

Inside, you are not cranky, you are just in a death grip with words. But outside, you are in THAT mood, an absolute stinker to be with. It takes a solid stream of inspiration to entice a writer to enter into such a state. Boyfriends, daughters, moms, adored dogs, the UPS man--all are equally snarled at when they interrupt the writing writer. Who would voluntarily decide to alienate everyone around him or her? The writer, that's who. And it takes tons and oodles of inspiration to keep writing when, all around you, people are begging you to stop, for the love of God, and take a break!



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