Inspiration is a habit

I used to think that blogging was a self-indulgent, narcissistic pastime for people who couldn’t write Serious Things. Serious writers, I thought, struggled in private to set down their most important thoughts on pages that would be read only when a publisher recognized their native brilliance and invested in getting those thoughts out to an expectant public starved for brilliant ideas. I was wrong.

I didn’t write much while laboring under this belief. Writing was painful — a burdensome chore that must be suffered to encounter those rare moments of flow, where idea, intention and action all align.

This blog is rescuing me from that stultifying belief.

I started blogging seriously in September 2011. Before then, I had posted sporadically to LiveJournal and a few other random places. This blog at present is 109 posts strong. I feel like I am just now getting started. I now have personal goals for my blog. I keep an Evernote folder with ideas for future posts. I have met some dedicated writers and have discovered connections with friends I didn’t recognize before blogging. All to the good.

I write this blog for two reasons:

  1. To develop and sustain a daily writing habit.
  2. To overcome my crippling aversion to sharing what I write.

I read a bit about the craft of writing and have noticed a somewhat obvious correlation. Strong, successful writers write every day. Obvious, perhaps, but it struck me as a bit profound. Most successful writers, when asked to share their secret weapon, say write every day without fail. Write if it is easy. Write if it is hard. Write if it is good, bad or indifferent. Write every day. Constantly move forward. I think of this as “holding my seat”.

Holding your seat is about cultivating a practice of writing when you don’t particularly feel like writing. This is necessary to escape the belief that we must wait until we feel inspired before writing. Inspiration feels good and the best writing is often accompanied by that feeling. I cannot wait for inspiration. Inspiration comes at awkward, inconvenient moments — in the shower, laying in bed, driving my chair, sitting in a meeting. I can’t always capture the words in these moments and, when I have the time and tools to write, I can’t always be showering, lying in bed, driving or sitting in a meeting.

Writing everyday is a way of bottling that feeling of inspiration and using it when you can actually sit with it and visit for a while. This blog gives me a focus for writing every day. I am learning not to depend on inspiration, which is fickle and capricious. I believe inspiration can become a habit. Blogging cultivates the habit of drawing inspiration when I need it and can use it most effectively.

I used to write in private, guarding what I wrote from discovery until polished to perfection. The irony was that I rarely finished anything I wrote. I never stopped polishing. Writing was a secret fetish, a lonely compulsion I practiced in complete isolation. Sometimes I wrote things I thought were pretty good. Sometimes I wrote things I thought were pretty bad. It became hard to tell the difference. I found myself endlessly polishing both the good and the mediocre until it all pretty much looked the same. Blah.

I was crippled by an unwillingness to share. The act of writing is solitary but the results of writing should be shared. This isn’t because most writing deserves reading. Most of what I write probably does not need to be read. Most of what I write is not brilliant. Blogging is my way of surrendering the idea of brilliance as a worthwhile goal. Blogging allows me to shortcut that old, anguished practice of hording my words until they merit attention. It has become a creative lifeline and a source of focus around disparate ideas and inspirations. I am grateful to the people who follow what I write here and post comments. I appreciate every visit, every like.

When people read my writing, it affirms my path. It keeps me focused and protects me from feeling overwhelmed by inadequacy. I don’t share everything I write. I don’t incomplete drafts of stories or poems or notes for longer works. Those things can stay private until they feel ready.

Blogging takes the pressure off. Blogging makes writing feel more natural and relaxed. Blogging reminds me that there are lots of other people doing the same kind of work that I do, feeling the same kind of pressure or inadequacy or stress. Those feelings may be a natural part of the process but I don’t have to be captured by them. I certainly don’t have to be imprisoned by the need to wait for inspiration. Inspiration is a habit and, like all habits, can be cultivated, prepared and grown.

6 thoughts on “Inspiration is a habit

  1. A lovely thoughtful post. I used to think I didn’t need to write every day, because I could churn out huge volumes of words once or twice a week. Since starting a daily blog on 1st January I’ve realised the writing flows better and I enjoy it more. It has dried up the huge chunks of words, because my ideas are all used up by the time I get to pack the kids off to nursery, but I hope – with practice and persistence – I’ll manage both!


    • Good point. I find myself blogging more now than I do writing on actual stories and such. My ambitious idea was to blog in the evenings and then wake up an hour earlier for the creative project writing. Yet to happen. I’ve got plenty of ideas to support both but managing the time requires practice. Definitely requires practice and persistence. Don’t give up.


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