Writing Advice: Prepare to Be Inspired

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Inspiration is a flighty creature that never seems to come when you call it. There may be times when you sit around waiting for some kind of inspiration and it simply refuses to strike you. And then there are times when it creeps up on you in the shower, or when you’re waiting in line at the bank. There is simply no rhyme or reason to inspiration. We cannot ask for it and we cannot stop it when it does decide to show up. All that we can do, as writers, is be prepared at all times.

This week’s advice comes, once again, from Margaret Atwood, whose tips for writing have been compiled in a post on the fabulous Brainpickings website. Atwood’s very first rule of writing reads:

Take a pencil to write with on aeroplanes. Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can’t sharpen it on the plane, because you can’t take knives with you. Therefore: take two pencils.

At first, I was reading this advice completely literally. I was thinking, why is it so important that we bring pencils on airplanes? Doesn’t that seem like a very specific thing to advise writers to do? But then I realized that it’s all about being prepared. If your pen leaks and you have no way of writing down your ideas, it’s good to have a pencil on hand so you don’t lose that moment of inspiration.

As we’ve already established, inspiration can be hard to come by. So you should always be ready and waiting for that lightning bolt of a good idea to come along and hit you. When inspiration does come calling, harness it to the best of your ability and write until you can’t write anymore.

Don’t waste those moments of inspiration because you don’t know when they’re coming back. And, for God’s sake, carry more than one writing instrument with you.

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

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