Writers: Get Your Hands Dirty

Sometimes I mentor writers, and these amateurs really make me nuts when they complain about “not feeling inspired.” Waiting to be inspired before you write is like waiting for God to hand you a Ph.D. in astrophysics before you decide to be an astronaut.

Writing is a Discipline

When it comes to creative work, schooling helps, and inspiration helps, but there is no substitute for practice. For some people, it might be easier to think of it in terms of fine art: an artist who has been well educated can produce a technically proficient drawing, though it may evoke no emotion. An artist who relies solely on inspiration can produce an emotional drawing, but it’s likely to have been a lot more fun to draw than it is to look at. Practice is the process whereby you unite your technical knowledge and your sense of inspiration. It’s where you force your brain to seek inspiration in ordinary things, because that’s what most of life is, for a writer as well as for everyone else.

Writing for “Big Bucks”

One thing that helps push writers past the lack-of-inspiration issue is when writing is their job, so they have to write. Aspiring writers often ask me how they can jump start their careers past the writing-for-peanuts phase and right into the writing-for-big-bucks phase. Sometimes, they think they’re so special, they won’t even sit down at the desk unless someone’s paying them whatever they think they’re worth.

I tell them to go ahead and write for peanuts. Write for whatever you can get, because if you’re that hesitant to write, then having a deadline and someone expecting deliverables will make you write, and you won’t get better unless you practice, practice, practice. So, at least you’re writing. In the meantime, figure out what type of writing you’re best at, and pursue your big money dreams as well.

“Inspiration” for Writing

Businesspeople, scientists, entrepreneurs: they all know that there’s no substitute for experience, but those in the arts sometimes think the arts are different because our work relies on “inspiration” and “talent” and so forth. I won’t deny, there is an element of talent to it.

Some people are verbal and others just aren’t. Some people just aren’t good at expressing themselves with words, and they probably never will be, but if you want to do more with your work than entertain friends and relations, you have to treat writing the way any professional does, and get that disciplined practice in.

Sure, when you’re a creative writer, nobody’s looking over your shoulder. You’re alone in your efforts. That makes it tough, but if it were easy, everyone would do it.

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