Monday, August 25, 2014

On Inspiration

By DeAnna Knippling

Inspiration. It’s a great feeling, to be inspired. To write, to fall in love, to have faith in the world.

But it’s just a feeling.

If you’re waiting for inspiration to hit before you write, well, you’re going to waiting around a lot. And then, because inspiration never hits on schedule, you’re going to be driving to work, you’re going to be in a meeting, you’re going to be in the middle of an argument about who’s wrong on the Internet.

You’ll get a note or two from your flash of inspiration. And then...more waiting.

Okay, so maybe sometimes you have to work when you’re not inspired.

There’s that saying, “Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard.” It tries to be an inspirational phrase, but it just isn’t. It isn’t eagles flying. It isn’t music swelling in the background. It isn’t love at first sight. Just because it’s true doesn’t make it inspirational. Which means that once again, you’re waiting around for inspiration so you can figure out how to get your butt in the chair, so then you can get your fingers on the keyboard.

But let’s say that you do hide out in a coffee shop somewhere, with no wireless and no outlets, dusty chandeliers on the ceiling and beat-up, second-hand velvet chairs, and you bring an old leather-bound journal with you, the one you last wrote in when you were in college and that has all those old poems where you tried to be Shelley or Angelou for a few stanzas. And you sit down and you write with the notebook balanced on your knees with a spotty pen that keeps leaving blobs on your page while teenagers shout gossip and lines of pseudo-philosophy above the sound of the espresso maker and the clink of those little spoons on saucers, and you’re really feeling inspired and then the next day you go back and read it--

And it’s crap.

I’m telling you, that inspiration. It’s just a feeling.

If what you need is the equivalent of love at first sight in order to write, you've got problems. It doesn’t actually make you write any better than the butt in chair technique. And it certainly won’t help you write more

Real writing is like any other thing that we do out of love. Most days you’re not going to be in the heat of passion. You just aren’t. Most days you’re going to get up in the morning and go through your routine. Some days you’re going to think, “Why bother anyway?” And some days you’re going to grit your teeth and swear you’re leaving.

Real writing is like real love. It’s dirty and cranky and bad-tempered and foul-mouthed and has its arms crossed over its chest and eats too much Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey when nobody’s looking. You have to change its diapers. It pukes everywhere. It screams at you that it wishes it were never born, and why did you have to be its parent anyway? It gets drunk and comes home and passes out on the front lawn and you never want to see it again but you do. It gets in ruts. It has a midlife crisis with every freaking book. It goes deaf, it putters around the house accomplishing nothing, leaving a trail of dirty socks and making sardonic observations about the neighbors.

Okay, granted. There are days when you and your writing need to spend some time apart. And some stories that are just going to leave you, or you them. And sometimes you’ll look at what you’re really writing and wish that you only had to write when you felt like you were falling in love all over again.

Falling in love isn’t real love, though. It’s just the possibility of maybe finding the one

You already have the one. Your creativity. It’s inside you already. Your spirit, your muse. Already there. And when you are off chasing inspiration, your muse is left behind. Saying in a small voice, “But what about me?”

You’re longing for something you already have.

That inspiration. It’s a feeling, you know. That doesn’t make it nice


Why not sit down at your keyboard and try giving something to your muse for once, instead of demanding everything from it? Try taking care of your muse for a while, instead of forcing it, instead of beating your head against the wall, instead of waiting around and making calf eyes at every slutty little moment of inspiration that walks by your stool in the Pity Me Writer Bar. 

What does your muse want?

...the same thing that anyone in a long-term relationship wants.

Just to have you pay attention.

About the Author: DeAnna Knippling started freelancing in May 2011 and wouldn’t be able to do it without her wonderful family and friends, especially her husband. In fact, she owes a lot to Pikes Peak Writers for helping her be a better writer, especially through the Write Brains, both in the lectures and in meeting lots of other writers.

Her reason for writing is to entertain by celebrating her family’s tradition of dry yet merry wit, and to help ease the suffering of lack of self-confidence, having suffered it many years herself. She also likes to poke around and ask difficult questions, because she hates it when people assume something must be so.

For more kicks in the writerly pants, see her blog at or her ebook How to Fail & Keep on Writing, available at Smashwords, B&N, Amazon, and OmniLit.