Meta Writing


The boy I dated in college used to say “inspirado” rather than “inspiration” — partly because he liked Tenacious D., and partly, I think, because he just liked words that sounded as if they should be accompanied by a twirl of the old moustache. These are, of course, both valid reasons.

When I think or talk about writing, I generally put little emphasis on inspiration. I don’t mean to devalue it; those moments of sudden new vision are necessary and wondrous. But persistence, skill, and conscious effort are also necessary, and I’m leery of any view of writing that celebrates inspiration rather than hard work. See the New Yorker article on the genesis of “writer’s block,” which I may have linked here before and probably will again; also see Nephele Tempest’s recent post at Romancing the Blog. Both express, rather more eloquently than I am at the moment, the importance of ass-in-chair to the writing process.

I also wonder if writing novels rather than short stories leads one to think differently about inspiration. When I’m working on a long project, inspiration arrives on a smaller scale: I come up with little insights into structure or character rather than silent-upon-a-peak-in-Darien vistas. Short stories, on the other hand, mean a new world every time.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that, last week, I did have the inspiration for a short story — while on the elliptical at the gym, actually, and listening to Shivaree on my slowly-dying old iPod. I’ve been working somewhat steadily on revising my first novel, and making do with the novel-sized bits of revision-inspiration that come. (We won’t get into the vast difference between revision-inspiration and fresh inspiration. Ahem.)

And you know what? After eight months of very little fiction writing, I’d nearly forgotten how much I like inspiration. It’s a nice feeling. It makes me want to twirl my imaginary moustache.

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