December 11, 2011 at 7:44 pm (Writing) (, )

Through the month of November, <a href="”>Nova Ren Suma ran an amazing series about inspiration. We heard from authors, playwrights, and poets, all discussing what inspiration is- or isn’t- for them. And it got to me thinking.

Inspiration is a highly personal thing. Everyone finds it or courts it or ignores it differently. For some, inspiration is the thing that drives their writing. It’s necessary, essential to everything they try to do. For some, inspiration is more of a by-product. They follow a routine, they put in the work, and inspiration is what makes it all go a little smoother. Not the impetus it is for the first group, but the momentum.

For me, inspiration is a million things, sometimes the impetus, sometimes the momentum, and sometimes even the end-result. Sometimes all the hard work is what leads up to the inspiration that acts as a spring board to something else entirely.

Sometimes it’s a gift, something that springs from a normal piece of life and becomes something consuming, something whole. Last June, I went to Gettysburg with some friends and found a character so fully formed, she’s been sitting on my shoulder and talking to me for the past six months. She’s been in my head, consuming my thoughts, driving me to do all the rest of the work so that she can step out of my head and onto the page. This kind of inspiration is, for me, very rare. I’m not kidding when I say it’s a gift- I try very hard to just accept it and not question it too closely.

Sometimes it’s a whip. There’s an idea that’s struggling hellaciously to get somewhere but on its own, it just isn’t happening. Inspiration is the hope and determination that keeps me working. It’s the expectation- not quite a promise- that if I keep working, I’ll get the story where it needs to go. This may sound like an odd definition of inspiration but it’s true. Sometimes inspiration is an emotion, a feeling that something needs to happen.

Sometimes it’s the glue. I work and I work, and I do research and planning and writing and somewhere along near the end, there’s a moment that makes everything else come together. It’s hoped for but still unexpected, that spark and surge and sudden knowing that everything fits. It can also be called the revision fairy. It’s the strange little creature that helps you go back through everything and smooth the rough edges, that threads everything together and shows you how to make everything consistent, how to turn the pages and pages of word vomit into something coherent that people will actually want to read.

Sometimes it’s the distraction. You work and you work and you work on something but keep hitting those dead ends. Call it writer’s block, call it misplaced vocation, call it whatever you will, but what it is most of all is blank space. Space that isn’t getting filled with words. Then an idea comes along, completely separate from anything you’re actually working on. And, because you’re stalled, you chase the fluffy white rabbit for a little bit. It’s not an important plot bunny, it doesn’t solve anything- except that it does. You chase it and play for just a little bit and it clears your mind. You’re not stressing. You’re not getting yourself worked up. You just play with it a little bit and the gift is that it helps you solve your problem. Without any effort, without any thought at all. Distraction doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and sometimes it can even be renamed inspiration.

Sometimes inspiration is a lot of different things.

Always, inspiration is hard to put a name to. It’s hard to tame, perhaps even impossible. It can’t be badgered into a single shape or pattern.

Inspiration simply is.

So what is it for you?

Until next time~

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