Writing Advice: On Inspiration


One of the really great and supportive things that the National Novel Writing Month website offers members throughout November is pep talks from famous authors. These authors span many different genres and are from all different walks of the writing life. A recent pep talk by author Malinda Lo caught my eye this week. The pep talk was all about inspiration, which is something that authors often talk about in very lofty terms. I understand the hype of inspiration, absolutely, but I don’t really like to rely on it for writing. I like getting excited about a new idea, certainly but that excitement is not going to stick around. I think we all know that. And Malinda Lo had something to say about this topic, too.

In her pep talk, Malinda Lo said that “inspiration isn’t what gets your book written. Discipline is. However, inspiration does sometimes pop by for an unexpected visit.”

This spoke to me so much because it’s how I feel about writing. Discipline is what is going to make you sit down in front of your computer every evening and crank out 1,000 words. Discipline is what pulls you away from distractions that demand your attention and make you focus on your story. Inspiration is seductive, as Malinda Lo also mentions, but it’s not going to stick around. Inspiration may plant the seed in your head for a story, but it’s not going to stay and help you write it. For that, you’re going to need discipline.

Malinda closes her pep talk by saying: “Enjoy that inspiration while it’s there. Enjoy it thoroughly because it is rare and precious. Just don’t expect it to show up every day. The only thing that needs to show up every day is yourself—and your determination to see this through to the end. You can do it.”

I guess the main thing to remember is that inspiration is a flight mistress, and discipline is more like a long-time partner. You can’t rely on the fact that you’re going to feel inspired and completely excited every day when you go to write. But you can rely on your own sense of discipline and determination — if it’s good — to get the writing done.

— Jet Fuel Review Blog Editor, Mary Egan