Waiting for inspiration
Writing is supposed to drop perfect from the skies. All we writers have to do is sit there receiving perfect words in the right order until it’s done, in roughly the amount of time it takes a reader to read it. Easy.
I meet so many writers who can’t start the novel or memoir that’s been bugging them for years because they think this is how it’s done and they’re waiting for perfection to strike. But like everything creative, writing is trial and error – does this bit work best like this or like that? – with false starts and bits of flying brilliance that don’t fit with what you’re doing at the time (and might work better in another novel or story). There are drudging days when nothing feels right until, looking over it weeks later, you realise that low day was one of your best.
It’s about skills too, loads of them. Storytelling and poetry are crafts as complex as composing music, sculpting or acting at the highest level. Some guidelines go back many centuries: Homer’s Odyssey is still hard to beat for suspense, structure and mighty characters. I realised early on that if rejections were coming my way, it was because my writing needed to be tighter and more expert. No draft left me again without substantial improvements. That first time I submitted it, I believed it was the best I could do of course, but studying teaches us how much there is to learn.
If you’re writing today, you’re lucky. There are more resources for writers now than ever and quite a lot of it is cheap or free. In this Better Writing section are some that helped me and still do.
From time to time, I blog about aspects of the writing craft. On the Home page of this site, you can scroll down the middle section to find a kind of contents list with links to blog posts about our craft.
Since 2011, I have been facilitating a writing group in Churchill College, Cambridge or anyone who has a connection with the college. Please get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org – if you would like to come along.