On Writing (Tue 16 Feb, 2016)

Wherefore Art Thou Inspiration?

To the pedants out there, please overlook the use of ‘wherefore’ in this context. I know the word really means ‘why’, rather than ‘where’, but I’m a great believer of, and proponent for, the evolutionary nature of language.

If the majority of people take wherefore to mean ‘where’, who am I to argue? Besides, I prefer this interpretation regardless of Shakespeare’s intent for Juliet’s balcony scene.

Old Will himself was never one to doff his cap and politely bow to the vocabulary norms and grammatical rules of his day. The bald-headed Bard was oft playing with language, teasing his audience and making up words.

So, if I choose to use ‘wherefore’ to mean ‘where’, I don’t think Shakespeare will be leaping out of his grave anytime soon to castigate me. (Castigate, by the way, is one his makey-uppies). Makey-uppies, incidentally, is one of mine!

Having recently read another aspiring author’s blog, I felt moved to write about the subject of inspiration.

The prompt came from the revelation about the terror they felt when unable to write – the stress and churning pit of the stomach they experienced staring at a blank screen waiting for inspiration to strike.

As someone who has experienced periods of feeling unable to write, I can empathise.

Staring at blank screen is not the answer

It is hugely frustrating when the creative spark you seek can’t be found, but staring at a blank screen and worrying, in my opinion, is not the answer.

Dwelling on something which will not materialise is not likely to make it materialise any quicker – if anything it will impede its progress.

It is better, I believe, to walk away and give your head and life some breathing space if you are able. Why beat yourself up?

That’s not an excuse for laziness and there is something to be said for being disciplined about your craft, but inspiration is a fickle fairy and often strikes when you least expect it.

Towards the end of last year, I was having difficulty writing anything.

To compound my sense of failure, I was in the throes of signing with an agent.

On the one hand I felt monumentally excited. On the other, I felt like the world’s biggest fraud of a wannabe children’s author.

What if I could never write another story?

If truth be told I didn’t experience anything like the all-encompassing anxiety the author I have referred to, felt.

I just hoped I would climb back in the literary saddle at some point with fingers ready to gallop across my keyboard with unbridled abandon.

Three months later, my fingers did perform a little tap dance and it was this little tap dance that paved the way for a theatrical solo which blew my socks off when inspiration struck.

Too much going on

With hindsight, I was unable to write because there was simply too much going on in my life.

I was preparing for Christmas on my own, wrapping and delivering presents, buying food and putting up decorations and trees single-handedly while my husband was working abroad.

In addition, I was dealing with two sick children, both of whom had a ghastly diarrhoea and vomiting bug, plus trying to empty some of the contents of my Father’s flat prior to him moving into a nursing home due to his Parkinson’s Disease.

My stress levels were high and, if truth be told, writing was at the back of my list of jobs to be accomplished.

Once Christmas had passed, my Father was settled in his new accommodation and the children had returned to school, I suddenly felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders.

I was surfacing for air and thinking about writing again.

Writing is something I do for myself. It’s an outlet for pleasure and escapism. It’s where I want to go when I’m happy.

And that for me, is when inspiration tends to strike – when I’m content, have some ‘breathing space’ and when my mind is free to wander.

There’s a lot to be said for daydreaming, in my opinion.

The capacity to absorb thoughts and feelings, revel in frivolity and grab a shooting star to a new dimension or a new story, in my case, is wonderfully liberating.

So, however we find inspiration, through calm, through reading, walking the dog, overhearing conversations, meditating, exercising or singing loudly to the radio, I think all authors need a bit of ‘me’ time.

And when we can’t get our ‘me’ time and life throws a few bricks our way, it behoves us to soak up the hits and quit worrying about the writing.

Nothing bad ever happens to authors…it’s all experience for the next book!


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