`Writing Inspiration: Do You Really Need It to Write?

August 6, 2017
Source: Nana Elikem l thebftonline.com l Ghana
`Writing Inspiration: Do You Really Need It to Write?

Last weekend, I honoured an invitation to speak at a boot camp organized for teenagers in the Church of Pentecost – Mataheko District. It was a very interactive session as the young boys and girls asked a lot of questions about writing, how to become a writer and how to be a good one. One of the first questions they asked was about writing inspiration – where do you get inspiration from? Do you need inspiration to write?

Do you know that people already have answers to their questions before they ask them? How else would they disagree with you if they did not expect a certain answer from you? Therefore, before I answered the question, some of the lads were kind enough to tell me some of the things in their heads.

“I write best when I am inspired – like when I am emotional and all… Otherwise, I can’t”. This is the song most of them sang. I have been asked this question too many times so I was not surprised by it. Neither did their answer surprise me.

I used to ask this same question and I had a similar mentality as the teenagers I interacted with. This way of thinking changed when I started writing a serial with my friend, Kossi Akplah. Writing the serial change my perception of writing from a work of inspiration to a work of discipline. I moved away from the thinking that the only way to write is when writing hits you upside the face and demands your presence for a few seconds or a few hours. Better put, I could not afford to be inspired before I write.

We were scheduled to make the content ready for readers latest 6 pm every Friday. We had people sending us reminders on Wednesday that they were waiting for the stories and if by 4 pm on Fridays, we had not published it, calls and threats would follow. Imagine that I woke up one morning and told the readers, “Well, folks, I am sorry to let you know that there is nothing to read today. Your guy did not get any inspiration. You’ve just gotta wait till inspiration finds me or I find it.” That would have been super convenient. If it was acceptable, nobody would write.

When I started this column, it firmed by new thinking. It takes discipline to write – not inspiration. I found. “Tell me about writer’s block when you have to write an article weekly for the newspaper”, I tell people whenever the subject comes up.

A writer’s job is to write – whether rain or shine. I cannot wait for the lightning bolt of creativity to strike me before I begin to write. I activate the lightning, I call it forth and draw it from within myself. With discipline, I make myself master over my creative juices. It responds when I call. I am no longer at its mercy, waiting for it to favour me with a moment of illumination to write. I cannot afford that at this point of my writing career.

To be very honest with you, writing under inspiration is very exciting. Life basically throbs in my throat so thick I must get it out into my computer or my notebook. That’s super thrilling! It is bliss to write in the gush, the throb, the flood, of the moment—to put things down without deliberation—without worrying about their style—without waiting for a fit time or place yet it turns out perfect. I feel the pen fly along the page by itself, as if another Being controls it.

But, how often does this happen?

Writing under inspiration has its drawbacks. When I write with inspiration, I often have a strong start at writing whatever piece I am working on, but then find myself quickly abandoning the project when it gets hard. Inspiration is such a fickle thing, eh?

With inspiration, finishing projects is hard. Also, I tend to spend very little time writing or practicing my craft any time I resort to waiting for inspiration. I have an easier time writing poetry rather than stories, articles or serials when I under the inspiration. This is because the whole of a poem can be written while inspiration is hot upon me.

To take writing as a discipline has its downsides too. With this, writing becomes formulaic, lifeless, or stilted. Sometimes, I finish projects – which is a good thing –  but it often seems something is missing with what I have done.

Now that both methods are problematic, what should a writer do?

I have found that there is a middle way between inspiration and discipline. This combines the two. When I must write, I hope that inspiration strikes me. If it doesn’t, I write any way. In this middle ground, I have learned that my greatest preoccupation is not to write a great piece; it is to write in the first place and make it great after.

This middle way is the path of writing freedom. I am not bound by any of these two – discipline and inspiration – yet I get the work done. This middle path makes me harness the power of both extremes and use it to create masterpieces. For instance, I realized that the more disciplined I am with writing, the easier it is for me to be inspired. And when it comes to the outcome of my works, if it isn’t good, it’s not my fault. The inspiration simply didn’t strike me then. And if the writing is good, it’s still not my fault—and my ego won’t become bloated—because inspiration was there working for me.  Win win!

Which camp do you find yourself in? Do you wait for writing inspiration before you pick up a pen or do you sit and write no matter what? Let me know. Send me a mail.

The writer is the co-founder of www.2eweboys.com and the author of the two books; Growing Up and Words of the Wind. Kindly send your feedback about the article to 0547166163 or elikemaflakpui@gmail.com.