Waiting for inspiration
You have heard many writers say it – most of you have probably said it yourselves: “I’m waiting for inspiration”.
You stare at the blank page and find that you have no idea how to proceed, so you claim to have been cursed by writer’s block, an affliction that somehow makes you unable to put words on a paper. Certainly, it’s comforting to think that when we fail to be productive we can blame something other than ourselves.
Call me a writer’s block sceptic. I think it’s a wall we build in our heads, and each brick is another bad excuse. And think about it: isn’t there more hope in a world where your writing dreams can’t be stopped by some intangible affliction over which we have no power?
When I was young, I had a brief adventure into the world of golf. It wasn’t my type of game; you had to dress fancy and remember lots of rules. I quit after a year of half-hearted attempts, but I brought with me a single piece of wisdom. It was something my golf instructor – a rugged man from Scotland – told me: “The difference between the world-class golfers and the rest of us isn’t the quality of their best game – it’s the quality of their worst game.” I was young, and the wisdom of the words passed right through my head like a breeze through my baggy shorts (inappropriate for the golf course, I was told).
I remember those words today and know that they apply to the struggle of turning my creativity into a living. Anyone can work hard when the energy flows, so unless it flows all the time, the work you do when the energy isn’t there is what’s going to matter.
Let’s be honest: you have more bad writing days than good ones, don’t you? I know I do. And I certainly don’t mean to say that we are all doomed if we find ourselves unable to write on those bad days. But it does mean that kicking down that wall in our head must be our biggest priority.
The wall of excuses is held together by fear; fear of failure and fear of not being good enough. To break down the wall, we need to accept that fear; we will fail, and we aren’t good enough. But that’s okay. Because the more we try and the more we fail – the more we improve, and the more likely we are to succeed next time.
This brilliant tweet by Joe Abercrombie sums it up:
Of course you can polish a turd. It's just a dirty job.
— Joe Abercrombie (@LordGrimdark) March 20, 2016
So accept your fear and kick down that wall.