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You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. ― Jack London
Truer words were never spoken.
Here we are – almost at a new year. I bet you’re making resolutions aren’t you? Or perhaps you’re just thinking of all those resolutions you made last year that you didn’t fulfill. You’re feeling like a bit fat failure. Next year you’ll be different. Next year things will happen that surround you with just the right circumstances.
I find that the root of the issue, especially for many would-be writers, is that they’re waiting, hoping to be inspired.
I hate to break it to you, but waiting and hoping (with anything, but especially with writing) is stupid. That’s right: stupid.
Allow me to share a story. My college major was journalism. It pains me to think of my eighteen-year-old self, now. How sweet she was. How innocent. How creative. The world was her oyster. And her skin had the thickness of a grape.
She dreamt of changing the world with her writing. She’d write for causes and the world would stand up and rally behind her because she was brilliant and insightful.
Did I mention that I was going into this major have no journalism experience under my belt but plenty of creative writing experience?
I learned a very important lesson in those four years: a creative writer is not a journalist. My sentences were too long. My language was too flowery. My descriptions weren’t based in fact. Why the hell was I using so many adjectives? I didn’t write fast enough. I was too nice as an editor. I couldn’t write the hard, cold truth even when it was staring me in the face because it put someone else in a bad light and that made me feel terrible about myself. This isn’t a review, it’s a summary. Are you crying? Why are you crying? Stop crying!
THERE’S NO CRYING IN JOURNALISM!
Oh, but I cried. I’d bring those marked up news stories home and cry over my collection of various failures until the red ink pooled like puddles of blood. Perhaps it wouldn’t have hurt so much if this feedback didn’t come from every single journalism professor I ever had. I was destined to suck.
But I’ll be damned if I didn’t grow a thick skin. That’s the first thing you need if you’re going to be a writer: a leathery hide. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now. I didn’t appreciate it then, but I laugh about it now.
I also honed one hell of a talent. Not everyone can write – though a lot of people think that they can. It’s a talent, friends. And like any talent, it takes practice. You must WANT it.
Writing is not a profession for the weak. It’s not a job for people unwilling to work and grow and learn hard lessons. It’s not the place for an idealist who longs for inspiration as she thoughtfully stares out the window chewing on the end of her pencil.
If you want to write professionally, you’re throwing yourself into a deep, dark mosh pit of kajillions of people with the exact same dream. You can’t sit around on your keester, praying for inspiration. You have to get to work. Sometimes that means working when there is nothing to work with. In fact, you have to work ten times harder, longer, and faster than anyone else in that mosh pit of would-be writers. Can you do it?
Don’t wait for inspiration to burst through your brain like lightening on a cool, spring day.
The people that want something – really want something – they go after it. The people that like the idea of something? They wait around, hoping to be inspired.
Hell, you may as well be waiting for Prince Charming. Save yourselves, my friends. He’s not coming while you catch those extra Z’s.
So tell me…do you go after something or do you simply want it?
Allison Janda is a self-published author. She has three dogs, one of which acts more like a cat.