Authoring and inspiration

I generally avoid writing about writing because it’s dull, and the internet is awash with it, but there’s an issue I think needs tackling. One frequently offered piece of advice on blogs about writing, is that you should do it every day, or often. The impression given is that waiting around for inspiration is unprofessional, it’s the approach of the self indulgent hobbiest. I read the opening to an interview with Hilary Mantel a bit back in which she said of course she writes every day, she wouldn’t want anyone to think she was one of those people who just does it for fun (I paraphrase). I did not feel inspired to read any further.

Call me old fashioned, but I think there’s a role for ideas, imagination and creativity in books. I’ve tried it the other way, and I can reliably grind out words to meet both word counts and deadlines, but it’s rare these are my best words. I’m not at all sure the world will greatly benefit from more books that were written in a disciplined, professional way, without any inspiration in the mix. I have a suspicion this is how a fair amount of fiction is written, and I know the majority readership picks up books that conform to predictable shapes. It’s certainly what we’re telling each other to do. Books are more perspiration than inspiration, of course, but without inspiration, what are they? Painting by numbers?

For the person who wants to be An Author – published, recognised, and with decent sales figures, it makes sense to go after the markets that pay, and the dependable readerships. Give them what they want. As a reader I’ve never been attracted to those books (give me Matlock the Hare, give me Sheena Cundy and Carol Lovekin…). More than anything I want to be surprised, I want to be caught up in the imagination and vision of the author.

No doubt one of the (many) reasons I’m not very successful is that I was always more interested in the creativity than in being An Author. I wanted to write books that weren’t like anything else out there. I wanted to have ideas that would surprise, delight, blow other people away. I wanted to say something of substance about life and the human experience, but do it in a way that is readable and doesn’t require a degree in English Literature. I live in hope of achieving some of this one day.

I can’t do that without having ideas. I can’t manufacture ideas, I have to wait for them to turn up. I need time to reflect, to research, to experience, to gather material, gather wool, weave something in my head. At the moment, the balances in my life aren’t delivering the space to think creatively very often. I can and do sit down and write pretty much every day – I write this blog – but I wouldn’t create a novel this way.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

6 responses to “Authoring and inspiration

  • Argenta

    Maybe because I’m a writer myself, I find writing about writing exciting and not at all dull. I love when I find out other people are doing the same things as I am. Or, completely different ones 🙂

    I agree with most of what you say, though admit it has really helped me to have some discipline. Otherwise, I can get either too carried away by an idea or just mope around when there isn’t one.

    • Nimue Brown

      it may be a twitter issue – hashtags like Mondayblogs and Tuesdaybookblog are so full of blogs about how to write blogs… people I find interesting talking about how they do things I can be up for. But not the regurgitated truths and the ten things all authors need to know (where the validity is often questionable).

  • landisvance

    So timely, Nimue! I am thrashing around struggling with the burden of needing to create my ¨platform¨ and the dreadful realization of needing to feed the beast regularly even though there is nothing regular about my life. The few times I have written blog entries out of timing necessity the postings have been pretty dreadful. I write because it is the surest route to awen for me (needle felting free-form comes next) but sometimes life gets in the way and it can´t or doesn´t flow. I am taking deep breaths and trusting that by taking one step at a time I will end up where I am supposed to be with this all. I would like to write another book because I think that what I have to say matters, but will I have the necessary time and inspiration, that is unknown. Do I want to spend what time I have on building something that may become irrelevant if I get sicker? Or do I seize the moment and live balls out? Or can I find the middle ground? So, thanks again for putting into words that upon which I have been hopeless stuck musing.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    Once again, it is a matter of doing what works for you. There is no more one right idea about writing, then there is one right way for doing anything else.

  • janeycolbourne

    “I wanted to have ideas that would surprise, delight, blow other people away. I wanted to say something of substance about life and the human experience, but do it in a way that is readable and doesn’t require a degree in English Literature. I live in hope of achieving some of this one day.”

    You are achieving that Nimue!

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