Given the opportunity, I will go on and on about how you can’t wait for inspiration. It’s one of the few things that gets me on a soap box.* You might very well be struck down a few times in your life by a genius idea straight out of nowhere, but I doubt very much that those exceptions really make up a creative life. You can’t wait for anything. You have to just sit down and, in my case, write.
But, while you shouldn’t wait for inspiration, sometimes you can seek it out.
I’ve been scanning through the journals of Joyce Carol Oates. I was up on the seventh floor of the library stacks the other day. I like it up there, because it’s quiet, warm and cozy (nearly suffocating, actually), there’s a cool view of some construction they’re doing across the street, and it holds most of the library’s novels and critical essays on literature. I like to walk through the stacks and pick up novels I’ve read and novels I’ve heard of but never read. I don’t read them now. I just look through them, trying to get a feel for how other people write fiction. Call it research.
I often walk to the section with all of Joyce Carol Oates’ novels, because she’s an idol of mine. A Princeton professor who also produces novels, book reviews, and critical work at an amazing rate. If you think Steven King is prolific–and he is–imagine doing all that and teaching at Princeton. Next to all of her novels, I came across a volume of her journals. It’s a huge volume and it only includes 10 years worth of her daily writing (1973-1982), edited down to a mere 500 pages. It’s hard to imagine she ever stops writing.
Reading the words of someone who has spent her whole life writing inspires me to just write and not worry so much about whether I’m writing anything good, anything meaningful, anything artistic, anything I’ll ever be happy with, anything I’ll ever finish. There’s no checking your ego at the door, but you can choose at least not to let all that other stuff stop you from doing whatever it is you do.
*This is a lie.