Inspiration Versus Perspiration

By Adrienne Brodeur, Creative Director

It is tempting to wait for the muse to strike and every once in a long while she does, lobbing a glorious idea into your head that lands with the satisfying thump of a perfectly caught baseball. But how often does that happen, really?

More typically, inspiration tends to be elusive. If you’re not disciplined–if you don’t make a conscious effort to sit quietly and think and be ready for an idea when it appears–you’ll slide distractedly into the rest of your busy day, promising to start paying attention in earnest tomorrow.

Here are some thoughts on the subject from a handful of my literary idols. They seem to agree that hard work comes first, which allows room for inspiration if and when it should occur.

GILBERT “It’s a relationship, it’s a conversation, and all [the muse] wants is to be treated with respect and dignity — and it will return ten thousand times over.” –Elizabeth Gilbert
EB White “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” –E. B. White
cheryl strayed “Writing is hard for every last one of us… Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.”–Cheryl Strayed
leonard cohen “Before I can discard the verse, I have to write it… I can’t discard a verse before it is written because it is the writing of the verse that produces whatever delights or interests or facets that are going to catch the light. The cutting of the gem has to be finished before you can see whether it shines.” –Leonard Cohen
American Intellectual and Writer Susan Sontag

“Love words, agonize over sentences. And pay attention to the world.”–Susan Sontag

jane kenyon “Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours.”–Jane Kenyon

Photo credits: Elizabeth Gilbert (C); Cheryl Strayed (C) Joni Kabana; Leonard Cohen (C) Rob Verhorst; Jane Kenyon (C) Donald Hall; Susan Sontag (C) Sophie Bassouls

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