Finding the balance between inspiration and perspiration

Today’s post is inspired by two quotes.

Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration – Thomas Edison

Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work – Stephen King

I’m not claiming to be a genius – far from it. I write these blog posts as much to crystallize ideas in my own head as to inform others. I definitely don’t have all the answers, and if some of you out there do, I’d love to hear them!

I do know that good writing requires a balance between inspiration and hard work. You can have the best ideas in the world, but without good technique and a little creativity you may find that no-one is interested in reading your stories. On the other hand, you can be the best writer in the world, but if you have nothing worthwhile to say you’ll find yourself equally unpopular with readers.

I don’t think writing is as easy as just sitting in front of a computer for eight hours a day (or whatever time you happen to have) and publishing the resulting text. Ideas have to come from somewhere, so an important part of a writer’s job is research: going out and experiencing life – whether that be in person, or by extensive reading.

I once read somewhere that a good writer can take the smallest germ of an idea and pad it out into a full story. I assume this is done (the way I would do it) by taking a key-word/incident/character/setting etc and fleshing out a story around it. But surely the flesh of the story comes from other key-words/incidents/characters/settings etc that the author has seen/heard about/read about in the past. The more experience you have, the less ‘inspiration’ you need…because you have more raw material stored away in your memory (or notes) to fill in the gaps.

Don’t ‘sit and wait for inspiration’. Go out looking for it. Write everything down. You never know what the future holds, and that (insert experience here) might one day be the key ingredient required to make a story really shine.

Only once you have a few experiences under your belt is it time to sit down and start writing. This is where the hard work comes in! Take the ideas generated by your research and combine them in new and exciting ways. Don’t worry about whether it’s any good, just get it all down on paper. That’s the only way to improve your technique, and if you’re not happy with it – well, that’s what editing is for!

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