Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Inspiration v. Sweat Equity

I'm in a rut in my writing.

Surprise. Another author in a rut. This ought to be original.

When I began writing, I was lucky enough to join a great writer's group, CPRW, (thank you yet again, Megan, for the hard sell!). It was one of the better decisions I ever made. A few of the authors really welcomed me, and have been instrumental in helping me to get through the submission process.

I've been reading their stories/books as well as their blogs, and it always amazes me how their voices are so unique and the different perspectives they bring to a topic, or the ideas they share. As I wrote on my website, everyone has their lens through which they view the world, but I'm not going to discuss the nature versus nurture theory today. I'll save that one for later.

Right now I'm more interested in inspiration. Natalie, Megan, and Misty have shown themselves to be very prolific in their writing. Vicki keeps her numbers closer to her vest, but I have no doubt she puts out the word count. How do they do it? Is it a combination of inspiration and determined persistence? My output the past few months has been pretty pathetic. It's easy to get into a downward spiral. I have lots of scapegoats - life interfering, waning enthusiasm, rejection, exhaustion . . . Congress. But, in the end, that doesn't get the job done.

My theory is to work through the low plateau I'm resting on. Hard work will sustain you and see you through. It's something I've heard all my life. But where does inspiration come into play?

Any creative endeavor needs both.

When I was seventeen, I wandered into a small art gallery in Barcelona, Spain where they were having a Picasso exhibit. It featured many of his early works, including his masterpiece. It was an enormous painting done in oils, taking up most of the floor to ceiling space on one of the gallery's largest walls. The subject was his sister's first holy communion. After completing this painting, he was deemed a master of light and shadows. I could well believe it. The candlelit church with its dark, imposing wood, contrasted the girl's white communion dress. Her gossamer veil, folded over on itself in layers, was so realistic I felt as though I could reach out and straighten it. I could easily imagine the young girl turning to stand after receiving her communion and making her way down the aisle of the richly appointed cathedral. He painted this masterpiece when he was fifteen. Picasso, at age fifteen was considered one of the great masters. Where do you go from there? He'd done it all in the realm of realism. Picasso decided his inspiration lay in Cubism, and it's what he's most well known for today. His paintings became more surreal and sparse until some of his most famous were limited to a countable number of brush strokes. His inspiration took a major turn, and he opened up a new, and still to this day, controversial avenue of creativity. Where did the inspiration come from?

Let's take a brief look at another master. Mozart. Mozart wrote his first Sonata at the age of four. By age ten he'd written several symphonies. His first opera was completed at the age of twelve. Obviously he was inspired. But he doesn't veer into the avant garde. He continues in the same vein, though, decidedly his pieces range in sound and style (Unlike Beethoven, who you can usually tell as soon as his begin, that it's one of his compositions.) Mozart was inspired to write a variety of music in the Romantic style. Though, he died at the age of thirty five, you never know what he would have done had his life not ended so early.

I don't consider myself anywhere near the same level as these two famous men. I'm looking at inspiration, not talent. So, where does this leave me? I know how to work hard. But inspiration? Where do we get it? How can I drum some up? As I sit with my head in my hands, staring at the open document of the W.I.P. I've decided to obsess over, how do I juice up my brain and get inspired to continue? Caffeine is not the answer. Trust me, I've already tried. I guess I'll just keep chugging along, plodding through, until my muse decides to perch on my shoulder and whisper in my ear. I wish he'd hurry it up already. My caffeine buzz is about to wear off. And if that happens, things will get really ugly.


Natalie J. Damschroder said...

For me, inspiration comes from passion. Not necessarily my own, but passion invested in an endeavor by someone else.

For example, Trans-Siberian Orchestra music. Every year that I get to go to their concert, I get enough inspiration to last me for months, because their love for the music and the passion with which they play their instruments and play to the crowd are tangible.

Other good writing inspires me, too, whether it's a book, movie, or TV show. Taking a class or workshop where the instructor says something I haven't heard before often sparks something in me, whether it's an idea or a need to work.

And sometimes, taking a break works, too. Absence can be powerful inspiration. :)

Ava Quinn said...

Thanks for sharing your inspiration ideas, Natalie. I'd like to take a class soon. Get some different perspective. None of my usual inspirations are working right now.

I'm too scared to take a break. I'm afraid I wouldn't find time for it again if I stopped at this point.

Ideas for stories isn't the problem right now. It's the follow through to be inspired to write, and write well, every day.

Hopefully I bust out of my rut soon!

Victoria said...

I completely understand the fear of taking a break and losing it. A ruts not a fun place to be. We've all be there lots of times! And will be again, I'm sure.
Sometimes it helps me if I work on something else for a few days - maybe something way out of my normal box or just plain silly.
I hope your inspiration comes back soon! If it doesn't, I'll help you hunt it down and make it come back! :)

Ava Quinn said...

Thanks for the suggestions Vicki. I like the trying something out of the norm idea.

If we need to go looking for it, can we wear orange camo?

Victoria said...

We can wear orange camo if you want! I'm game! lol :)

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