90% Persistence, 10% Inspiration

It’s been said that ditch digging is easier than writing. I’ve dug fence post holes—close enough to a ditch—and there’s no way I’d take that as easy. But both jobs take about the same amount of ‘stick-to-itness’.

I think that’s because both are tough, in different ways.

Digging is just back breaking—and hand breaking with all those blisters. But you can let your brain coast (unless there’s measuring involved, and then all bets are off). Writing needs a certain amount of empty brain time, too. Which is to say, you cannot undersell the 10% inspiration that’s needed. That usually only comes when you have time to let the mind wander and pick up stray bits that somehow become a story. And that brings us to the question of what’s inspiration, and what’s pounding your head against a wall that won’t give.

Persistence is a great thing, unless you’re doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Folks label that insanity. And, yes, most writers are just a bit off—who else sits alone, day after day, but with people who talk in your head and wake you up with parties at three AM. Writers also are known to talk to themselves, but we have the great excuse of saying it’s only to test out dialogue.  So we persist. We write.

We write without selling a story. We write and edit and sent off stories with great hope. We get back such stories, and instead of sounding retreat, we retrench. And rewrite and send off again.

That’s where I think the insanity comes in—at some point you need to leave a story alone. It’s not going get better. It’s like pushing mash potatoes around on a plate—they’re never going to change into a nice piece of salmon. So that’s where you need inspiration to come in and take you to something new. Another story. Some fresh characters.

This is not to say that some old stories cannot be salvaged—sometimes all a story needs is rest. But sometimes a story needs a bullet to the head and a spot of eternal rest. That happens with digging, too—sometimes you hit a stone, and you cannot dig it out. You need to move over and start a new hole.

And maybe that’s where the art lies, too, in knowing when to give up on one idea and move onto the next. Too much of that moving on and you never finish anything. But too much of sticking with something that’s not working…well, it can pay off.  It really can. After all, some of the best things to ever come into this world came from folks who had the insanity to stick with something they believe in.

But I still say writers aren’t so crazy as to want to be ditch diggers—but we’re probably damn close. And now if you’ll excuse me, I have some holes to fill up and some stories to revise (and write). And ebooks I must get formatted!

Shannon Donnelly

Now at Book View Cafe:
A Compromising Situation
Under the Kissing Bough

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90% Persistence, 10% Inspiration — 4 Comments

  1. There is a rap song by Fort Minor, called “Remember the Name,” that beautifully illustrates just what’s going on with creativity and drive and fame and all the rest. (Be warned, the language is rough, for those who avoid that sort of thing.)

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