After the inspiration

Unhelpfully, creators are often depicted making their art in a rush of intense inspiration. In practice it doesn’t really work like that. The rush of inspiration is a wonderful thing, but the results are usually messy and need working on. After the inspiration comes the tidying up, and the working on whatever you’ve got.

What the rush of inspiration gives you is raw material. An idea, or a cluster of ideas for a thing. It might even give you a first draft, a sketch, a design. Then you have to sit down and develop it. The idea for a book has to be developed into a detailed plan perhaps, and then actually written. The poem written in the heat of the moment is probably going to need refining when your head isn’t on fire. The thing you drew in the heat of the moment might require reference material to develop into a finished piece.

It’s all too easy to become focused on the rush itself – which is an exciting part of the process. However, the idea that we can make a finished piece flat out from raw inspiration is so often a misleading one. Creativity is more than the initial rush of ideas and enthusiasm. The crafting part is just as much a part of the process. So is gathering your tool kit and learning how to use those tools. Learning about the form you are working in, finding your ancestors of tradition and your contemporary, living community is also an important part of the process.

For most people, the sudden rush of inspiration is a rare thing. If you wait for it to turn up then you could be waiting a long time for your art to happen. If you practice your craft skills, study your form, and work in more planned ways, you actually make more room in which inspiration can happen. It’s not just about becoming a wildfire of untamed imagination. Inspiration can be with you at any part of the process.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. 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 “After the inspiration

  • Lyreen

    Short reminders like this really help me every time I feel like I’m so not cut out for whatever I’m doing. It feels like I have to be Mozart on first try or Vivaldi with every tune.

    The thing about being someone moved by creativity is just that: that rush of creativity is one thing, your skill to execute it is another. Both can take time.

    I love this, thank you!

  • Tim Waddington

    I have notebooks full of three word phrases, four or eight bars of melody, all waiting for someone to convert them into something useable. Occasionally I even do it. More often I start a piece of work, and stick with it until I stop (I rarely regard a piece of music as “finished” – it will always depend upon who is playing it) . Sometimes this takes a long time (=months) using all the tools in my compositional workbox (from baroque counterpoint to stuff I stole from Tom Waits), sometimes it all comes out at once – I wrote one 3 minute trio for mandolin, violin and nyckelharpa in about a quarter of an hour, and apart from a couple of small amendments, we’ve been playing it the way I scribbled it down ever since. Inspiration (or Awen) can seem to be very fickle – neither relentless pursuit nor willful ignorance will get one very far. We all have to find our own source of inspiration and accept that it will probably change from day to day.

  • Kelley Heckart

    Your post made me think of the books that get published by Indie authors way before they are ready. A good rule is to let that first draft sit for two weeks, and then look at it again. Let it sit another week or so before doing more revisions. Writing a book is like baking a cake. You have to add the ingredients, bake the cake, then add the icing. Too many writers are impatient to publish.

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