Ah. I’ve been neglecting to write this post for a really long time, simply because I didn’t want to come to grips with my statistics of my own failure. A few weeks ago I posted about my new challenge–The Early Bird–in which I was going to get up early every day during the work week to write more words than I normally would getting up at my usual time. I was excited. I was ready.
And then the time came to do the thing, and I just…could not.
Yeah. If y’all were hoping for a post in which I talk about the joys of waking during the wee hours of the morning to pen magnificent prose while the rest of the world sleeps, we’re all in for a sorry excuse of a word vomit. I did not do that. At all. In fact, I don’t even know if there was one day where I managed to pry myself out of bed at 6:30 during the two-week-long stint that I was trying this for. Was it a lack of motivation? A requirement for extra sleep due to some inner stresses I was working through? Sheer laziness on my part?
I wish I had the answer. Unfortunately, all I know is that waking up at 6:30 to write did not go well. And I’m not going to try it again! (at least, not for a while. XD) I have, interestingly enough, still been writing every single day, however. My goal to write every day of 2023 is still going strong, though perhaps not as strong as it might if I had stuck to my challenge of waking at 6:30 for two weeks. But! Through all of this writing, I have begun to think a little bit deeper about the whole consistency VS. inspiration debate. In fact, I’ve been thinking about the elusive Inspiration a lot as a whole, and why writers seem to put so much stock and hope into this somewhat mythical beast.
“I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.”Anonymous (or like three different writers who all claim to have said it first)
I have met quite a few writers over the years, and–as humans typically do–each one has their own unique perspective on whether or not inspiration is key to writing a book. Some say that inspiration is fraud. If you have the determination and the willpower to write, the book will eventually be written, and whether or not you’re feeling particularly inspired at the time of the writing is moot. For these writers, consistency is key.
“Waiting for inspiration is like standing at the airport waiting for a train.”Leigh Michaels
Other writers I’ve talked to need at least some semblance of inspiration before they can begin–or continue–their project. There are some who say inspiration is crucial. That their writing feels flat when they are not properly inspired. And, in my opinion, what is the point of writing words just for the sake of writing words? If you’re writing just to write, and not writing so that it brings the story forward, you’re actually worse off than if you hadn’t put words to paper in the first place. Eventually you will find yourself with a mess of words and no story.
Trust me. I’ve been there.
But is there some sort of line between the two? A hazy stitching that joins both sides? That “common ground”, if you will?
I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I am not “inspired” to write at 6:30 in the morning. Or, more accurately, I am not inspired to write as soon as I wake up. Give me some time to hype myself up for the day–some good music, a little bit of reading, brushing my teeth (this one’s important, lol!), and suddenly I’m ready to sit down and craft the words. Is this waiting for inspiration? Is this being lazy? Or is it understanding how my brain works and respecting the fact that I can’t push it to write 5,000 words as soon as it wakes up for the day?
While I don’t necessarily agree that you need inspiration every single time you write, I do believe that having a healthy dose of it, especially at the start of a project, is key to telling a story that matters. If you’re not head-over-heels in love with your book, why should anyone else be? Inspiration is an easy tell that what you’re doing matters to you, and therefore will matter to others, too. But what about when that inspiration eventually–and it will eventually–drains out? Do you pitch the entire book and go off in search of something else to inspire you? Do you keep writing words just for the sake of writing words?
Or is it possible to keep writing forward without inspiration? Writing with a limp, so to speak.
I have a theory–which, in other terms, means that this could very well be a blind leap of nonsense, but it’s my theory nonetheless–that there are three main ingredients in routine. Specifically the routine of writing a book.
Inspiration > Consistency > Progress
Funnily enough, after all this debate of whether or not inspiration actually exists, I’ve gone and put it right smack at the front of the food chain. And yes, I lined these up in a very specific order.
It is my belief that these three ingredients are essential to writing a book: Inspiration. Consistency. Progress. If you’re missing even one, you will fall off the wagon and your book will not succeed
(probably. that seems like a pretty negative statement so please don’t point your pitchforks at me, folks. XD). However, if you unlock them all and utilize each to their fullest potential, you will find yourself with a story that you not only love, but one that actually gets written. Revised. Maybe even someday published.
And, believe it or not, it all starts with inspiration. Inspiration is that initial story idea. Your why behind the writing of this book. It’s your Pinterest board filled with characters and your Spotify playlist and the ideas that swirl in your head at night when you’re trying to sleep. Inspiration is the courage to write that first line in chapter one.
Most people view inspiration as this intangible substance–this effervescent material that, if we could simply bottle it, we would be unstoppable. But I don’t think a lot of people realize that inspiration actually has two meanings:
1. the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.
2. the drawing in of breath; inhalation.
The drawing in of breath. Inspiration, like breathing, happens automatically… usually. But sometimes it is up to us to fight for inspiration. To breathe in automatically when our brains can’t be trusted to do it for us. Sometimes we have to breathe in even when we don’t think we can.
This kind of inspiration breeds consistency.
Consistency is the effort of sitting down every day and doing the thing, no matter what circumstance or our minds tell us. Don’t have inspiration? I’m still going to write. Only have 10 minutes? I’m still going to write. My mind is telling me that this is the worst thing anyone has written since “somehow, Emperor Palpatine returned”? I am still going to write.
Consistency is endurance, and while it’s born of inspiration, it is not solely reliant on it. It occurs even after the inspiration has gone, and it is the driving force to continue a draft long after the shiny newness has worn off.
Consistency fueled by inspiration breeds progress.
Notice how I said “consistency fueled by inspiration.” Not “consistency fueled by the desire to write a book” or “consistency fueled by necessity” or “guilt”. Consistency born on the wings of inspiration will create progress. Good progress. Progress towards the original design of the story you’re crafting, and not merely a mess of words on a page with no meaning. When you’re consistent with a vision, it doesn’t matter if the inspiration is there every day. What matters is that you cling to and focus on that vision until the inspiration comes around again. Because it will.
Inspiration creates consistency. Consistency creates progress. And progress born of consistency will inevitably circle back around to inspiration, which feeds the cycle once more.
Inspiration. Consistency. Progress.
It is my belief that all three of these are necessary to the craft of writing a book. You cannot ecpect to have one on its own and create something magical, but at any given time, you can move forward with only two. And that is okay. You’re writing with a limp, but as long as you hold true to the vision, you will, eventually, get to where you’re going and tell the story your heart is whispering to tell.
And at the end of the day, that’s all any of us are really trying to do, isn’t it?
So the question: consistency VS. inspiration. Which is more important? My vote? Neither. I need both to write a book, but I’m not going to claim that either one has the upper hand. I will write when I’m inspired, and I will write when I’m not inspired. But I will not write words just for the sake of writing words. I will write something of meaning, even if it feels like pulling teeth. Even if my consistency is equal to 16 words on a Tuesday night before calling it quits. Those 16 words in the right direction are worth more to me than 300 in the wrong one, and I will be happy and content with that as I continue forward on this path of writing the stories of my heart.
talk to me, peasants!
Okay, that turned into a LOT more of an essay than I meant for it to. XD I’d love to know you guys’s thoughts, though! Which is more important to you in the realm of writing: consistency or inspiration? Do you think they’re connected, or are you on one side of the chasm shouting into the void? (goodness knows I’ve been on both sides at various times in my life…)
Let’s discuss in the comments below! I’d love to hear your opinions!
There are not enough words in the English language to express how much I love this post!!! This is something hardly ANYONE talks about but I think it’s sooo important! You always hear the advice that you MUST write every single day, that inspiration doesn’t matter, just getting words down does, etc., etc. But that advice always makes me wrinkle my nose. If I followed a lot of that advice, I’d honestly detest writing. It would be something I resented, not find joy in.
Because you are so right. It’s about the love of story more than wordcount. Wordcount is super important, obviously. But we should be writing those words for a REASON. We should be writing them because we love the story, and even on the days it’s hard to get the words down, we do it anyway because the story MATTERS to us. Every story we write should be one we genuinely want to tell, and it’s our love for it that is the key to inspiration.
Basically just EVERYTHING YOU SAID. You put it all so, so well! I mean, Inspiration > Consistency > Progress? YES. BRILLIANT. This is the type of writing advice the world NEEDS and a reminder I need myself when I get so caught up in wordcounts. Thank you so, so much for sharing all of this!
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Yes!!! This exactly! I think we get so caught up in the amount of words we write and “who can write the fastest” that we forget about the most important thing: writing stories that people will connect with and relate to.
And I think that’s one of the hardest things for me in regards to NaNoWriMo. For years it’s fed the desire in me to write ALL OF THE WORDS, but sometimes I find that I’m just writing just to write. And if I’m not writing towards something? What’s the point?
Eep, thank YOU for reading it!!! It always makes me so incredibly happy to know that my little posts resonate with people! I cannot even begin to describe how much this means to me!!
This post was great and made me think about my motivations for writing.
I think inspiration is like a spark that starts the fire; the desire to keep the fire going fuels consistency. The necessity to keep going depends on how much completion is required to keep you fed and breathing or pay the bills 😊.
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Oooh, I love the incorporation of money in there, too! For me, personally, I have a full-time job outside of writing that keeps me floating, but for some writers this is their only source of income, and therefore waiting for that inspiration could be even more of a detriment.
I’m interested to see if my mindset on this changes once I start writing full-time, or if it is better for me in the long haul to lay down my writing values before making that kind of commitment.
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Honestly, I don’t know which is more important to me. I was inspired yesterday but didn’t write down the inspiration-fueled kernel until today. (Also you got a typo in this sentence: ‘tell the story you’re heart is whispering to tell’)
“Somehow, Emperor Palpatine returned.”
Dude. The sheer amount of self-control it must’ve taken Oscar Isaac NOT to visibly cringe at that line. I would’ve been like “nope. can’t do it.”
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(ooh, thank you! I shall try and remember to go back and edit it, lol!)
I’ve been there too! Sometimes the inspiration strikes sooner than you have the time to jump on it, but as long as you are acting on it *eventually* (and, of course, as quickly as possible), I think it still follows the same sort of thread!
UGH YES. XD I don’t know how some of these things hit the big screen, but you know what? It gives me hope. XD
Yes, apparently I am just catching up on your blog.
But! Wow, this was amazing. It sums up what I’ve been learning in my own writing life of late, and put it into words. I’ll be musing over this for awhile.
You were an encouragement, my friend. Thank you. ❤
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Oh hey, that is perfectly fine by me! XD This is my new blog, so thankfully there isn’t TOO much backlog to get through. XD
Aw, I am SO glad! I always love it when my little posts are able to resonate. And it’s such a beautiful thing when the thing’s I’m personally struggling with are understood by others. It makes this whole writing thing seem a little less lonely.
Meep! That made my entire day! Thank you so much for reading!
I like this post a lot, Kenzie! (And it’s definitely REALLY hard to write–or do anything–early in the morning. Don’t feel bad! XD)
And I love your ultimate framework! I’ve definitely run into problems where I’ve just pushed forward without inspiration and plodded through a whole bunch of words that I needed to cut anyway…figuring out how to balance both is definitely a learning curve that needs to happen…and I’m working on it. 🙂
Meep! Thank you so much, Samantha! That truly means a lot to me!
Yes! And sometimes you find that you HAVE to push through blindly before you figure out how the story is actually asking to be written. It’s such a complex framework, and I often wonder if there’s really any sort of scientific balance at all. XD (but, to be fair, I think once science begins entering the creative arts, that’s when things start to become less inspired.)