Jay Lake: Writer

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[Process, Writing]

[process] Inspiration

This morning my brother wrote me an email saying, in part:

I am starting to feel like there are two classes of inspiration:

1. The inspiration to artistic impulse that gives birth to the nature and intent of the expressive work; and
2. The inspiration to motivation which is required to forge the work itself.

As I said to him, I find this an excellent observation. He wasn’t specifically referring to writing fiction, but he just as well could have been.

I think for most, if not almost all, of us, his first class of inspiration is what drove us to trying our hand at fiction in the first place. Some variation on “I can do better than that|Wouldn’t be cool if I could read this kind of thing|Man, I just had the sweetest idea!” That onset-of-concept falls well within the range of what we consider inspiration.

What I find interesting about my brother’s comment is that his second class of inspiration is more commonly thought of as discipline, or dedication to task. Or, as I have often called it, psychotic persistence. His referring to it as inspiration speaks to an attitude that I have encountered in many working pros, but had to work pretty hard to learn for myself.

The books don’t write themselves, and as much as working novelists joke about cat-waxing and moan about wordcounts, we work. I can remember being 15 and thinking that I had to be inspired to write. Now, I mostly need time to write. The inspiration has been packed into my assumption set.

Sometimes it helps to remember how I got to the point where even apparently tedious work like revisions and marketing still can feel like a joy.

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