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.
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.
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.