The Writer’s Biggest Excuse: Inspiration

We rarely accept guest posts. In fact, we’ve only posted two other guest posts to this blog. Today, we’ll add a third to the list.

Joel Falconer is a freelance writer who has everything it takes to make it. He’s a fantastic person with a mind for business, and he’s going after success with strong will and determination. That deserves a nod.

He’s been hiding out somewhere down in Auz, and we dragged him out to plunk him down and present him to you. Joel? The stage is yours, bro.

The more time I spend talking with other writers, the more I realize that we’re all involved in perpetuating and believing a massive myth.

Rather, the myth is just a big excuse whipped out of our back pocket at the end of the working day, the point where we realize we have zero words pulled from our minds and typed onto the screen.
“Damn. Well, inspiration didn’t hit today. My muse just isn’t with me.”

What? Sorry?

Hypothetical situation number one:

I’m a surgeon. I’m cutting a hole in some old man’s prostate, because all kinds of stuff gets stuck in there. (Or so I’ve been told. I certainly don’t know from experience.) I’m in the middle of a pleasantly gruesome stroke of my scalpel and suddenly… I run out of inspiration.

Hypothetical number two:

I’m a garbage man. I’m driving my truck from street to street when suddenly I think, “Hang on a second. I can’t do this. I’m not inspired!” Within a week, trash overflow has taken over global warming as the hot issue for politicians everywhere.

If you’re a professional, then you can’t keep kidding yourself. You can’t keep excusing yourself. You have a job to do and you had better damn well do it. It’ll only be done when you pull your finger out of your backside and start typing.

Some of you are still sitting there thinking, “But inspiration is a necessity! I can’t write without a brilliant strike of lightning hitting me on the head and knocking my pants off!”

Think again. This limited view of writing that we perpetuate on ourselves and have perpetuated on us is preventing writing from happening.

Nothing else.

If you don’t believe me, I dare you to try it for yourself. Challenge this terrible misconception. Don’t just run an arbitrary little test; get a job as a beat journalist for a few weeks or ramp up your client base until you’re working fourteen hour days with deadlines five days a week.

You don’t have a choice: You have to sit down, write, and get on with it. This pressure alone will be enough to change your mind about inspiration.

The muse, our inspiration, has its place. When lightning strikes and our pants go missing, the words we write are, well… inspired. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not knocking your muse.

But our muse is an optional extra, a sweetener. She’s not the fundamental element of any good writer’s workflow. Making it so is a sure-fire way to kiss success goodbye. Writers who write regardless of blissful moments of nirvana have a few reams of paper to show for it.

That’s not to say quantity wins over quality. That’s to say that if one out of every 10 pages is quality work inspired by bliss, then the writer who writes 100 pages regardless of the muse has, then he or she has 10 pages of quality work.

The writer who makes excuses has one.

If you’re not a professional writer and writing is your hobby, it’s fine to depend on inspiration. I get that. You don’t have deadlines. If you want to write one page of that bottom-drawer novel a month, that’s totally cool.

If you are a professional writer, let’s get our facts straight.

I think that the written word and the stroke of a paintbrush and all the arts have the same potential to change the world that humanitarians and philanthropists with fat wallets and so on have.

But to have this view of writing means we’ve elevated writing into something that it most certainly is not. It’s potentially powerful, but it’s not that fickle.

Stop talking about writing. Sit down and write. Only then do you have a chance of producing content that can change the world – or at least give someone a cheap chuckle and an express ticket to snoozedom.

Want to cut through more excuses and get your writing done? Joel Falconer can tell you how. Visit Joel’s blog for more advice on freelancing, writing, productivity and the web. Hey, and he’s Australian, too.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.