Jack London once said,
“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
Recently, I’ve invited some of my friends to contribute to the Star Spangled Girl with guest blogs from “Everywhere in Between” to bring some new, interesting points of view. You can tell that someone isn’t a writer when they say, “Sure, I’ll write something when I’ve got some time.” While there are certainly legitimate time constraints that can prevent someone from being able to sit down and write 200-400 words that will suit my high standards, if I only wrote when I was inspired my page would probably be blank.
It’s a blessing to be able to write inspired. As the great writers of history have taught us, in the absence of inspiration, there’s always alcohol. I prefer caffeine–a Venti Skinny Hazelnut Soy Latte, thanks! If “blogging for a living” has taught me anything, inspiration is overrated. Inspiration can get you the first 10%, but after that, it’s work–a labor of love. In fact, writing is a lot like falling in love.
Coming up with a great idea is chemistry, it’s infatuation. It’s the spark that drives the pursuit. Then you’re off, not really knowing where things are going to take you. You fantasize about the idea, thinking of all the places you could go and the people you could quote. You brag about the idea, wanting to tell everyone who’ll listen about this new-found gem.
You’re dating the idea, seeing where things go. What are the possibilities? You have to open up a bit, allow yourself to be vulnerable. No good idea or relationship can begin without honesty and a willingness to be open, no matter how uncomfortable. Soon, you begin to uncover a bit more, there’s depth. Some of the things you thought you enjoyed about the idea, you may find less than appealing. Other things are even better than you thought. Another idea may tempt you, promise you other creative outlets to seduce you away. You weigh the pros and cons, decide if you want to proceed.
If you do, you’ve got to commit. You put the pen to the paper or your fingers to the keys. It’s not always easy, and it takes work. You’ve got to compromise–it’s called editing. You have to be willing to divorce yourself from things you thought you absolutely, unequivocally wanted and needed, like extra clauses or turns of phrase. If you focus too much on the little things, holding on to them for dear life, you can ruin an otherwise beautiful narrative. But if it’s the right piece, with enough work, you can usually write your way through it. Maybe you can really have it all.
Sometimes things get messy. You’re writing, trying your hardest. Not every idea is meant to be brilliant. You have to cut your losses. You may throw it aside, violently scrapping the idea that you once held so dear. Or you may choose to publish, accepting that while it wasn’t what you expected and hoped, it’s time for you to gracefully move on to another idea.
Once it’s over, you may never want to see it again. Then, one day, you stumble upon it, running into it in an unexpected place or seeking it out in a moment of weak nostalgia. You might rediscover the love you once felt, rekindle a passion and excitement. Otherwise, you may tip your hat to it, acknowledging that while it wasn’t your magnum opus, it was once something you loved with a reckless abandon.
Successful art is never quite finished. Like love, an idea will continue to evolve, far beyond the day it posts on a website. It deepens and expands, bridging to places you never quite expected when you first felt that spark of inspiration. You can continue to work on a piece of art, or a relationship, forever. In many ways, you should continue to allow the idea to develop and grow.
They say “If you love something, set it free.” This is publishing. If you over-edit and overwork your idea, like a relationship, it becomes stifled and stale. Set your idea free, into the world. If it’s the right idea, it will come back to you. You can continue to work on it, but it will stand up to the test of time–and Internet trolls.
To my brilliant friends, I encourage you to embrace the idea of blogging. Accepting that there is an element of reckless abandon, a vulnerability, an imprecision that it requires. There is no formula. You have to just embrace the unknown and trust your heart.