The Wrong Way to be “Inspired to Write”

I love advice columns. It’s a weakness. I have more than enough of my own problems, but I’ll still take 15 minutes out of my day to read about someone else’s. And one of my favorite advice columns is Slate.com’s Dear Prudence.

Last month, they posted a video question from a poet and it drove me absolutely batty.

Screenshot from Dear Prudence: Uninspiring Boyfriend.

There’s a ton of things wrong with that question. But this is a blog about writing, so let’s talk about that.

This woman wants to write poems. She only writes when she’s “inspired.” She is (apparently) inspired by drama, but she recently got a very nice boyfriend. She asks Prudence if she should break up with him because otherwise her gift will be wasted and she’ll never write again.

Ouch.

OK. No one who really wants to write only does so “when they’re inspired.” They can’t afford to. They have to write. Maybe they have sales to make, or they have to make a living, or they need to finish a novel, or they just want writing to be a major part of their lives. They can’t wait for inspiration because they wouldn’t write very much.

Lots of folks–especially new writers–romanticize inspiration. They know writing is easy when they’re inspired, and they know that it can be tedious and frustrating when you’re not. And instead of just accepting that that’s a very normal way to feel, they wait until they’re fired up to write anything.

If you take that too far you get people like the letter writer, who think they can either be wildly inspired or not write at all.

Do you know what people who write for a living do? They write like it’s a job. They write every day, no matter what they feel like. And if they feel tired? Hungry? Furious at the person who cut them off on the highway? If they hate their novel with every fiber of their being? Too bad! They have writing to do!

And that’s why this video is so ridiculous. If this poet wanted to write poetry, she would put her butt in a chair and write it. She would know that some days you’re inspired and some days you aren’t, and it doesn’t matter because you have deadlines and goals, even if they’re only self-imposed.

But no, she thinks her options are to give up writing or give up her boyfriend. That’s tragic.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “The Wrong Way to be “Inspired to Write”

  1. That video question just reeks of “there’s more to this, but I’m not telling the whole story.” I don’t seriously believe she’d consider leaving a healthy and fulfilling relationship just because it’s impacting her hobby. Unless she’s crazy. There is the possibility that she is crazy.

    Not much to say about the rest of the post because you’re right. Inspiration isn’t the end all and like anything else in life, you’re not going to accomplish much of anything unless you actually sit down and do it.

    1. Yeah, there’s definitely something else going on here. There isn’t enough information in the video to guess about the details, but I bet the real issue has nothing to do with writing.

      But if you take it at face value, yikes. I can’t imagine how someone can have a gift and then just accept that, oh well, they won’t use it ever again, too bad~

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s