Beyond Inspiration

Often the romantic view of the writer is sitting at a desk, deep in thought, pensive until the right idea clicks. Those lightning bolt moments are great, but it’s not the norm. Ulysses certainly wasn’t knocked out in one draft of inspiration. Even Kerouac’s famed long typewriter rolls were rewritten and redrafted, despite the myths around his method.

The truth of it is that writing is work. There’s an element of play that you have to maintain but to push your story and writing past the initial inspiration it takes work.

One of Henry Miller’s commandments for his writing in 1933 and 1934 was “when you can’t create you can work.” That was point number five. Point six was: “Cement a little every day.”

It’s a point I have hanging over my desk for when the writing is tough. The other one over my desk for exactly these moments is from Brian Eno: “It is simply a matter of work.” His other Oblique Strategy that I often revisit is: "Not building a wall, making a brick."

New year is just as good a time as any, and maybe better than many, to remember that the writing you’ll undertake this year will take work. But it's focusing on just one brick at a time that will create your wall of story.