Most people consider inspiration to be the driving force behind writing or any other kind of creative work. I think I speak for all artists when I say that if we waited for inspiration to take the lead on our projects, nothing would ever get done. If you want inspiration to drive you, don’t expect to make it to your destination.
Being creative goes far beyond a muse. It’s a conscious effort to get to where you want to go. Don’t confuse inspiration with dedication.
I’ve watched extremely talented people lose their will to fight for what they love, simply because they don’t feel like fighting anymore. These people have never learned how to work without feeling inspired, and because of that, the world loses.
So here are a few thoughts I have on the whole inspiration vs. dedication deal:
Set a goal.
This ties into my post on Monday (http://tinyurl.com/zpt8hwk) about developing plans for your writing. You need to develop your thoughts and ideas in order to make your time more efficient, but you also need to decide what you want to accomplish with those thoughts and ideas. Set realistic and measurable goals that allow you to work outside of feeling inspired.
Honesty time: I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired to write tonight. I was originally going to do a Buzzfeed style post on awesome libraries, but then I realized you’ve probably seen a billion of those. As I was sitting here trying to come up with alternatives and debating quitting, I realized I was too caught up in trying to feel inspired. Inspiration can help you, but it can’t control you.
Don’t let the small things defeat you.
If you get caught up in the little battles you lose, you’ll never be able to see the bigger war at hand. So I may forget to write a post here or there, or maybe my post totally bombs and not a single person looks at it. Those defeats do not define me. I am a writer, and as long as I’m writing, I’m winning. Now of course we both want the writing to be good, but if my goal was to get coherent words on a page and I’m doing that, then I’m getting somewhere, even if that place is off the couch and into my desk chair.
An old teacher of mine used to say “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.” Remember that.
Just keep swimming.
Need I say more? If you think you should quit because you “just can’t anymore,” then you should probably keep going. If you think you should quit because you’re going to kill everyone in your story because you’re so hungry, then you should take a taco break and get back at it afterwards. The biggest challenge here is to push yourself. Train yourself to go beyond what you think you can handle. You’ll be surprised what you learn about yourself and the quality of work you can put out when things become more difficult.
Writing is hard. You have to work at it and it most likely won’t come easy. But funnily enough, we often appreciate things more when we have to work harder for them. So I encourage you, don’t let inspiration be your guiding force. Love your craft and work for it.