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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2008-06-13 15:39
Subject: [process] Inspiration
Security: Public
Tags:family, process, writing

This morning my brother wrote me an email saying, in part:

I am starting to feel like there are two classes of inspiration:

1. The inspiration to artistic impulse that gives birth to the nature and intent of the expressive work; and
2. The inspiration to motivation which is required to forge the work itself.

As I said to him, I find this an excellent observation. He wasn’t specifically referring to writing fiction, but he just as well could have been.

I think for most, if not almost all, of us, his first class of inspiration is what drove us to trying our hand at fiction in the first place. Some variation on “I can do better than that|Wouldn’t be cool if I could read this kind of thing|Man, I just had the sweetest idea!” That onset-of-concept falls well within the range of what we consider inspiration.

What I find interesting about my brother’s comment is that his second class of inspiration is more commonly thought of as discipline, or dedication to task. Or, as I have often called it, psychotic persistence. His referring to it as inspiration speaks to an attitude that I have encountered in many working pros, but had to work pretty hard to learn for myself.

The books don’t write themselves, and as much as working novelists joke about cat-waxing and moan about wordcounts, we work. I can remember being 15 and thinking that I had to be inspired to write. Now, I mostly need time to write. The inspiration has been packed into my assumption set.

Sometimes it helps to remember how I got to the point where even apparently tedious work like revisions and marketing still can feel like a joy.

Originally published at jlake.com. You can comment here or there.

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Ruthanne Reid
User: ruthannereid
Date: 2008-06-13 22:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Heh. WELL said. *shoves into memories*
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Morgan
User: subu
Date: 2008-06-13 22:52 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm most definitely #2. I find it difficult sometimes to conjure the motivation even though I have so much inspiration. I just need a set schedule and discipline.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2008-06-13 23:35 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
>His referring to it as inspiration speaks to an attitude that I have encountered in many working pros, but had to work pretty hard to learn for myself.<

Me, too. What a perfect idea. :)
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Deborah Biancotti
User: deborahb
Date: 2008-06-13 23:38 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
(Sorry, stupid lj logged me out.)

>His referring to it as inspiration speaks to an attitude that I have encountered in many working pros, but had to work pretty hard to learn for myself.<

Me, too. :) Perfectly expressed.
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irismoonlight
User: irismoonlight
Date: 2008-06-14 00:04 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
2. The inspiration to motivation which is required to forge the work itself.

THAT. Yes. Because discipline for me encompasses the crystal cave wherein reside all my potentials and ideas.
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fjm
User: fjm
Date: 2008-06-14 06:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
For me, number 2 is the key. Number 1 is only generated by the process of the discipline. The more I read, write and argue, the more I am interested in reading, writing an arguing.
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Terra LeMay: perfect
User: rarelytame
Date: 2008-06-14 12:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:perfect
I've been thinking of this post off and on since you made it. I wonder if there might also be a third inspiration, too? Or perhaps what I'm thinking of you'd consider part of #2.

What about the inspiration to get it "right"? Depending on that level of inspiration, your definition of "right" could fall anywhere from finished to sublime perfection.

I've noticed that many writers I know have this inspiration in lesser or greater amounts, some so much that it almost seems they need an extra helping of psychotic persistence to get past it. Or would you say that the inspiration to perfection is just one part of discipline and dedication and what's required to forge the work (except that perfectionism seems to have this double-edge. A greater inspiration to perfection seems to make everything harder, rather than easier.)

Your thoughts?

Edited at 2008-06-14 12:41 pm (UTC)
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-06-14 16:11 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think inspiration to perfection is part of discipline. The problem with perfection is that nothing is perfect. So someone who obsessively polishes without ever finishing isn't accomplishing anything, for example.

Some folks have me to task for this, occasionally with a lot of force, but I've never aspired to perfection. I just keep moving the goalposts on "good enough" to be higher and higher.
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