What? You mean you weren’t inspired to write this?!

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When I was a teenager, I wrote a poem for my then church magazine.  I was actually asked to write it – to write a poem about a church outing.  We’d been to a lake, so I wrote a poem about the lake.  I took my time, scribbled my stanzas, made corrections, tried to create flow.

Someone remarked upon it when it was printed and asked what had led me to write it.  I replied – someone had suggested I wrote it.  He raised his eyebrows.  “Oh,” he said.  “Nothing to do with inspiration, then.”

At the time, I felt rather floored by this.  I was bemused – was he teasing me, or was he genuinely being disparaging?  I still don’t know, but it wouldn’t floor me now.

Since when does inspiration preclude hard work – or vice versa?  What’s wrong with sitting down to write something because you’ve been asked to?  Come to think of it, it’s what poet laureates do all the time.  Write a poem for this or that occasion.  Would this, too, lead to raised eyebrows and a ‘nothing to with inspiration, then?’

I know we have our platitudes – 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration, etc.  I have to confess I find these clichéd phrases rather – dare I say it – uninspiring.  To me, there is an organic, dynamic relationship between the two.  Often I have to sit down and start writing with zero inspiration.  But like any train of thought, new triggers arise and I find that through the act of sitting down I am, in some way, inspired.  Of course there are days when I have to push the words out of me.  Days I feel dull.  But the crafting that takes place even within these ‘uninspired’ moments can create something that I re-read later and realise – actually, that’s not so bad – and ‘inspires’ me to think further on the subject.

What do we mean when we say ‘inspiration’?  Is it just a bolt from the blue?  A something where there was nothing?  Isn’t everything made of triggers and links and trains of thought colliding, building on something we already know and infusing it with something new?

No, I wasn’t necessarily ‘inspired’ to write this.  But does that mean it cannot be inspiring?

Any thoughts?


(Audio version shared via podbean.com – forgive my hesitant voice I am not practised at this yet!)

13 thoughts on “What? You mean you weren’t inspired to write this?!

  1. UKViewer says:

    I’ve always thought that inspiration requires a relatively good imagination, as well as a sometimes oblique thought process. Setting out to write a piece of directed work such as an Essay requires a mix of deliberateness, organisation and imagination, otherwise we can be stuck in an uninspired rut and regurgitate rubbish. (I’ve been there many times).

    I’ve never attempted to write poetry, perhaps due to a lack of confidence. But if, I had done as you did, I would have been a little offended by the comment made.

    And, your title on twitter inspired me to follow the link here. So there is a connection.


  2. Jane Chelliah says:

    Snobbery, snobbery everywhere. One has to be inspired to have one’s work pass the mark of approval? Inspiration is a great moment in time but, unfortunately, it is scarce. At other times when I have to write and don’t feel ‘inspired’ I still, well, do it.


  3. Claire says:

    Quite right. The process of sitting down to write actually gets the cogs moving. I think sometimes frustrated writers haven’t learnt that it’s not about waiting for inspiration. Writing is hard work. You’ve just got to sit down and do it.


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