On Writing

Getting to it

I notice a lot of people trying to ‘inspire’ others toward certain actions or behaviors these days. Well and good, I suppose. But what we all need is not inspiration at all. It’s simply action.

I write, I play music, I design websites. I used to fall for the ‘inspiration’ trap, wherein I would get bored with my work and go ‘seek inspiration’ from one of eleven hundred and fifty ‘design inspiration’ sites out there. The only thing I ever succeeded in doing was giving myself a perfect excuse to not do a damn thing.

There is a need to pursue what one wishes to create, no doubt. But I find that we more often than not use that pursuit as an excuse to make an excuse. Sometimes you just open Photoshop and start throwing things at the canvas, to see what sticks, and that’s how you find the Muse. And the Muse is going to most likely strip out all that ‘inspiration’ we wasted an hour looking at because she wants the work to be hers. Damnit.

I read some four hundreds books over the course of a few years. I had no choice. I wanted to write but had no ‘liberal arts’ education. Thus, I had to make my own curriculum. To be fair, the landscape of fiction is full of more crap than one can imagine. The more I read, the further to the past I ventured. And this is, as many better writers than me have noted, the best way to learn how to write: read. But, at some point, I realized my reading had become an excuse. Reading that fortieth article on how to self-publish was an excuse. One day, I’m unable to remember which, I just sat down and went to work. The resulting collection of short stories has been enjoyed by those who think it well done and, I’m happy to say, those who simply despised it. Tepid is not a response temperature I’m interested in.

I can look back at all the time I wasted looking for ‘inspiration’ and laugh now, because I understand what a ruse it was, and that I simply hadn’t learned to spot the ruse. For a while, I’ll admit, I was more than a little angry at myself for wasting so much time. Once you spot the ruse, however, that’s the moment you realize that the Muse actually belongs to you. She’s fickle, she’s sometimes elusive but, in the end, she didn’t show up because you became ‘inspired’ by something.

She showed up because you plugged the keyboard in and invited her to go to work with you.