A few years ago someone asked me how I stayed inspired. She told me that she had recently spent a month in New York and whilst there had felt liberated from her previous inhibitions and found that she was more creative than when she was at home. It often seems the case that people who like the idea of writing say that they have felt particularly inspired when they have been abroad but can’t seem to find the spark when they’re at home.
Undoubtedly the thrill of travelling, and seeing and experiencing different cultures gets the mind buzzing but this does not necessarily mean that the execution or subject of the work is any better. Experiences in themselves are essential to writing, but an experience without any ability to relate to someone else is redundant. The line between good and great prose is determined by the ability the writing has of relating thoughts, experiences and ideas to the reader. For writing is in its essence, communication.
Writing, and here I refer particularly to creative writing in the sense of fiction and literature, is most often done in reflection. It is a process of sitting down and turning things through your mind until you have some way of communicating ideas and thoughts to someone else. Yet the process of actually getting the thoughts onto a page is often misunderstood.
The writing process can be exhilarating, but most often it is exhausting. It is easy for anyone to sit down and write a few words on a page. But I think there is a difference between simply writing down a few words and being a writer. The great writers are marked by their endurance, their ability to persist at their work. For any great art is created by spending hours, days and years, working and developing. What makes a writer then is the pursuit of going beyond themselves, of intentionally spending time writing, even when inspiration is far off.
Sometimes great art can be made fairly quickly, but it is often built upon a foundation of practice and work. Slaving away, practicing and refining, deliberately and intentionally working even when there is no inspiration. It is the result of pursuing something more. It is an experience that can be gruelling and tiresome.
The course of writing requires a method. This method, or approach, is unique to the writer. However, all creative writing is about becoming, it is about something that comes into being through the process. In such a way the process of writing can be laborious, it takes time and effort. Rarely does anything of worth pop out of thin air. All writers are aiming for a moment where they reach the point that they lose themselves in their work. Where the literature comes into its own. That is what defines a writer, the pursuit of that freedom, of that joy, where you connect into something much bigger than yourself.
For writers editing is the backbone of their craft. And it is often the most daunting aspect. Anyone who writes will also know that most of the time when they sit down at the computer screen or with a notepad and try and write, nothing happens. At other times a thought will come at the most inappropriate moment and demand to be written down. However, the more regularly a writer practices putting the pen to paper the easier it starts to flow. It is also about knowing when to pursue an idea and when to leave one. That is why editing is a key part of the development, as it is the best way to determine what ideas have the most potential.
Writing takes effort, discipline and hard work. Writing effectively is about finding what works for you and then sticking at it. Working out what time of day you work best, what environment is most conducive and how long you can write for are the initial steps you may need to take before finding your routine. Some people work better in short bursts while others over a longer periods of time.
It takes too long to wait for inspiration to strike. You can actively look for it but you can also work through it. It helps to plan for writing, to work out a time when you can work and then deciding on what you will work on. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an elaborate or all-encompassing plan but something that will keep you writing.
Of course, there are different types of writing and each form requires a different process and approach. No one particular method is suitable for every style. However, one of the best things any aspiring writer can do is read. Read everything you can get your hands on, books, newspapers, anything. Engage with the world and ideas, challenge it and question it.
In the end, everyone has their own approach to writing. It is about finding what works and persevering with it. It is about the constant pursuit for something beyond yourself. All writers should be searching for that place. It is at that point of connection that is most inspiring, where you lose yourself in the process and become free. This may all seem a bit starry eyed, but I have always consider writing to be work. I sit at a desk, give myself some time and start to work. But writing also has the propensity to take over. It can be demanding and at times may become a resentful task. Writing is not for everyone; I spend half my time questioning whether I should be doing it. In the end you set the boundaries and limits for your writing, and you have to determine how far you are prepared to go with it.