Thursday, 27 January 2011

497 More Words on Inspiration (& Work)

I spent the better part of the last twenty years waiting to be inspired to write something awesome. I didn’t get a whole lot written. Sure, I started a bunch of stuff, but I could never finish it. The inspiration (that feeling of invincibility derived from a catalyst) would run out and I would wait for the next catalyst to push me further down road.

What a complete waste.

Then in the last few years I started digging deeper into the craft of writing. I spent more time thinking about and working on the mechanics of good writing, rather than relying on talent and waiting for inspiration. In 2010 (in addition to all the stuff I wrote for work) I wrote a both a feature-length screenplay and stage play. I was inspired to write both, but finished them through perseverance, through pushing through that place where there’s no more inspiration and only a mountain of words left to write.

Because if there’s one thing that’s been beaten into me about living and working as a creative, it’s that it’s a habit. You have to get up and do it whether you feel like it or not. Inspiration has little to do with it. It is hard, painstaking, gutting-it-out work. Inspiration has its place as the jumping off point (see the definition: “a sudden brilliant, creative or timely idea), but inspiration is a fleeting emotion that doesn’t get you through the dark night of the soul. (Donald Miller has touched recently on this too. Here and Here.)

The question then, I don’t think should be “what inspires you?” It can actually be counterproductive. We find something we think is the bee’s knees and can’t wait to share with people but when we do we hardly ever get the desired response. A “yeah…cool” at the most. We get our feeling hurt because they didn’t get it. If this happens enough we get bitter. Inspiration wasted. Lord knows I’ve lost plenty of good ideas that way.

So I think it’s important to recognize that the inspiration you experience is for you. It’s your rocket fuel to break out of the centripetal force that’s holding you where you are, but it’s only the stage one booster of breaking orbit. You have to maintain your trajectory after lift off. Stage two. This question I believe, is the important one: “what is the result inspiration produces?”

In that earlier series I wrote, I talked about that symbiotic relationship between faith and inspiration. I believe they are inexorably linked. You can’t have one without the other. The next logical step (for faith and creativity) is found in James. As paraphrased by Rich Mullins: “Faith without works, it just ain’t happening.”

I plan to double my output this year. Two screenplays. Two plays. And I plan on writing at least one of them here in front of you. I have not an ounce of inspiration for any of these four projects.

That’s also for later.


Emory Colvin said...

Yes. Yes. Yes. Love this post!! Thank you for the challenge to write, to push past the burst of inspiration to the knee deep grit of work. I can't wait to see what we all develop this year.

Mikeel Araña said...

yeah. creativity is 1% inspiration, and 99% hard work. working on it the engine that keeps it running, inspiration is the spark that started it. here's a cool post related to what you're sayin'