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Inspiration and the Writing Process, by Janet Marsh

“I write when I’m inspired

and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock

every morning.”

Peter De Vries

Peter De Vries was a prolific author who wrote short fiction, essays, reviews as well as twenty-three novels. He was also very witty. I enjoy this quote because, as an emerging writer, I find it wonderfully easy to write when I’m inspired: the words flow down from my head, through my fingers and onto the keyboard. Easy. The writing is great. The book will be published. Other ideas are flooding my brain: a sequel. No, a whole series in fact. Being a writer is brilliant – I was born for this. Yes!

Then come the not-so-flowing days when the words are constipated, the text is wooden, the plot is meaningless, the characters are flat and the entire setting is featureless. Despair settles like foggy dew. The sun has stopped shining and the cold chill of reality is seeping through every crack and crevice. And there are a lot of cracks and crevices. Suddenly everything seems pointless and even the good stuff from last week no longer seems that good after all. How on earth did I imagine I could write a book. How ridiculous …

Does anyone else ever feel like this?

De Vries offers a solution. What he says is inspiring. He says the routine, the habit, the custom – call it what you will – of writing will see you through. Yes. You simply carry on writing out all the dreadful stuff because sooner or later the inspiration will return.

I remember the summers when I lived in New Zealand. By four in the afternoon all the water in the pipes would be filled with a tepid and insipid liquid. You turned on the cold water tap and all you’d get was a gush of very warm water. It was awful. So, because it was NZ and not Australia, we used to let the tap run till the yucky stuff was out of the pipes and the delicious cool, artesian water was flowing again. Fantastic.

I’ve carried this metaphor into my writing life. Some days you turn on the creativity tap and all you get is a lukewarm flow. So what do you do? You carry on writing. Carry on until the boring bits are out of your system and the good stuff begins flowing again. It has to come at some point. It really does.

In fact I’ve come to regard the non-flowing days as rather healthy. Imagine if we were in top-notch, free flow ALL the time. How ghastly would that be? What if there was no release from pure inspiration. No possibility of sleep because words were pouring out of us and they had to be written because they represented such brilliant material. Imagine days, weeks, months and years of indisputable creativity … Imagine what we would be like to live with.

No thanks. I’ll be satisfied with the ebbs and flows of the writing life – hopefully more flows than ebbs – but not the dam-bursting flow of uninterrupted inspiration. I’d go mad; we’d all go mad. The world is filled with enough mad people as it is, so let’s not add to the supply.

The clock is ticking. It’s time to be inspired.


Janet Marsh bio page

The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold FryHearts in AtlantisKensuke's KingdomA Writer's Book of Days: A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing LifeThe Muses Among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer's CraftWriter with a Day Job: Inspiration & Exercises to Help You Craft a Writing Life Alongside Your CareerThe Five-minute Writer: Exercise and Inspiration in Creative Writing in Five Minutes a Day

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