Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Inspiration vs. Determination by K.M. Weiland

Inspiration vs. Determination

As writers, we do everything possible to encourage inspiration in our lives. Sometimes that means creating generally good writing habits, and sometimes it means routines that border on the superstitious (gotta have our lucky pens, right?). In my recently released CD Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration, I discuss all kinds of ways we can lure inspiration into our lives and give it a comfy place to live so that it’s sure to stick around. However, it’s important that we don’t overlook the vital connection between inspiration and determination.

Inspiration is bit of an airy-fairy kind of beast—not too far removed from J.M. Barrie’s preoccupied, self-absorbed Tinker Bell. It flutters in and out of our lives without too much concern for our needs and wants. Even when we do our best to foster its existence, it can be frustratingly uncooperative. For a writer—someone who pretty much lives on inspiration—this is not a very cheerful state of affairs. But can we can do about it?

Right on top of the list is the necessity of accepting this as a fact of the writing life. Number two on that list is realizing that we all have access to a much more dependable workaround:


Inspiration may sometimes fail to show up for work in the morning, but determination never does. Instead of waiting around on the unpredictable whims of our ethereal friend, who may or may not flit in on gossamer wings and zap us with that potent mixture of brilliance and adrenaline, we can always harness her hardworking older sibling. When we put determination to work and write even when we don’t feel like it, even when inspiration has decided to pull a no-show, we discover a couple of very important truths.

Truth #1: We don’t always need inspiration to write. Particularly if we’ve put in our time studying the craft, our fingers will move on the keyboard from sheer muscle memory, the words will appear on the page in surprisingly coherent lines, and what we have at the end of the day might be rough, but, not only will it probably be better than we think, it will also be words on paper—and that’s always an accomplishment for a writer.

Truth #2: Determination creates a healthy atmosphere for inspiration. The single most important thing we can do to foster inspiration is to be ready for it. Being ready doesn’t mean keeping an ear to the sky, waiting for random epiphanies. What it does mean is that we schedule an appointment with inspiration every single day. She may not always show up, but how will we know if she’s there or not, if we aren’t sitting at our computers ready and listening?

We’d all like to think that inspiration is freebie given to whoever is wanting and waiting. But the truth is that inspiration needs the extra incentive given by someone who is also willing. Inspiration doesn’t come gratis. She requires the hefty price of endless determination. But in return she promises that where determination leads, inspiration will follow. Always.


For a chance to win this awesome CD, comment on any of the posts for this week. 1 entry for every post you comment on (one point per day). Entries accepted through Friday, winner announced Saturday!


K.M. Weiland writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in the sandhills of western Nebraska. She enjoys mentoring other authors through her writing tips, editing services, workshops, and her recently released instructional CD Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration.

Find her on her website and blog.


Unknown said...

Great post, Michelle! I always love everyone's inspirational comments (especially those at the SCBWI conferences), but they aren't what gets me up at 5 am every morning. It's my determination to write and my desire to visit my characters. :)

Christine Fonseca said...

Yep - we definintely need BOTH! Thank you!!!

C. N. Nevets said...

Thank you for posting this, Michelle. Like so many other authors I used to be shackled by the need for inspiration. Realizing the dual power of determination to push through the lack of inspiration and to create opportunities for inspiration is what finally gave me the confidence I needed to consider myself a writer, not an aspiring writer. Because it's my choice, not the choice of a muse.

Stephanie said...

excellent Michelle - thanks!

Bast said...

I was just commenting about this same thing over at another blog. Basically, what I said amounts to truth #2. You need to write. If you write, sometimes you wind up being inspired. But sitting around and doing nothing isn't getting you anywhere. Great post!

Tere Kirkland said...

Great post! I'm going to have to link to this from my post today, I was talking about inspiration, too.

Of course, this is much more clearly explained than mine. I was sleepy this morning. ;)

Unknown said...

@Stina: I don't know that I've ever been "inspired" to get up at five in the morning. That's definitely where determination comes in to play!

@Christine: Like pretty much everything else in the writing life, it's an important balance.

@C.N.: Bravo! Well said. Once we realize that we're in control of our writing, inspiration is usually the one to come knocking at our door.

@Stephanie: Thanks for reading!

@Quinn: Totally agree. If we write, even when we think we're not inspired, at least words are being put on paper. If wait to write until we feel inspired, nothing's going to be written during that time.

Unknown said...

@Tere: Thanks so much for sharing the link!

Dawn Embers said...

This is an excellent post. It can be hard to balance, to know when inspiration is there or it's just determination to get some done. There are times when I've wondered if it's the right novel, since I have so many ideas, but in the end if I'm determined enough the novel will get finished.

Unknown said...

I'm fond of what Margaret Atwood had to say on that subject: "You don't always know it's the right time to write a story, but you *always* know when it's wrong." (Paraphrasing a bit there.)

Carolyn V. said...

I totally agree with the determination. You have to have it to be inspired. =)

Meghan S. said...

Inspiration is definitely a good thing! :)

Pattie said...

It seems to me that determination is something you need in any area of life. Whether you're writing, learning a language, an instrument, or just trying to get to know someone better.
Something else I've always found helpful is someone to be accountable to. It never fails to keep me determined! =D

Unknown said...

@Carolyn: Yep, it's really true that one leads to the other.

@Meghan: It'd be a hard life to live without it!

@Pattie: I agree. I'm actually toying with the idea of creating some kind of accountability program for writers. But it's a project for a future day!