In my experience as a writer, inspiration is a funny thing. It’s
always extremely obvious when I have it. Words flow effortlessly, and I can
convey my every thought exactly how I want it to be conveyed. It almost feels
like I’m not writing at all, instead burning ideas directly into the paper (or
computer screen, as the case may be) through some inexplicable psychic power.
It’s also obvious when I don’t have it. What’s strange is that I can never
determine what causes either of these states.
Writing without inspiration is a phenomenon most commonly referred to as “writer’s block” (yeah everyone knows the term, the quotations just felt right). You may know what you want to write, and perhaps even the structure with which you want to write it, but the individual words and phrases escape you. It’s a fairly unique feeling of helplessness, desperation, and boredom, of all things. All of a sudden everything seems more entertaining than your writing. A million distractions that had gone previously unnoticed suddenly become irresistible. You would rather do anything than figure out how to word your next sentence. To a writer this is exceedingly frustrating. Frequently I’ve asked myself “I thought I liked writing, why is it causing me so much misery?” I have yet to come up with an answer.
This raises the question of the exact nature of inspiration. How can something so fundamentally important for human creativity be so unpredictable and seemingly insurmountable? I can never tell when I will be inspired to write, or when writing will feel like an impossible, Herculean task. Scheduling around inspiration is therefore futile. I honestly pity those that rely on creativity for their wages (though on the whole I envy them much more), since writer’s block could mean a substantial decrease in their production at work. How can you write consistently if your mind occasionally refuses to let you?
Of course, it is possible to write when you are uninspired. During the SixTAY Days of Writing challenge I’ve found that the key is relaxing my standards. I might not be able to come up with the perfect word to convey my intended meaning, or I might have to reuse a word in an article at the cost of linguistic variety (like using the word “convey” again in this post). Ignoring these details in order to finish a piece is extremely difficult, but it does feel like a valuable lesson. Understanding the balance between production and quality is important, even in creative endeavors. Perfection isn’t a requirement. If I can post an article that people will enjoy at the expense of my creative conscious, then I will gladly make that sacrifice. The question remains though, why is it that the sacrifice has to be made at all?
Fortunately, I happen to be part of a community that is home to a plethora of talented writers. So I’ll ask all of you: how do you feel about writer’s block? When and why does it rear its ugly head, and how do you try to deal with it? Did I fool you into thinking that I intended to write this article, and that I’m not just ranting in an attempt to escape my own writer’s block? Wait, maybe don’t answer that last one.