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Inspiration is for Chumps—Creativity Takes Work!

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In a recent interview about his new book (a novel, mind
you), James Frey was asked what hour of the day inspiration most
strikes. His answer, which I’m paraphrasing, was a scoffing,
“Inspiration is for chumps. I work from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every
weekday. I have a very blue-collar approach to writing.”

Question: What should we, as writers, take away from this?

Answer: That the image of the starving
artiste chain-smoking by the window, waiting for Inspiration to flood
him, is crap! Same for the morose poet calling out to the Muses,
begging them to take him by the hand and lend magic to his pen (or
keyboard). No. Inspiration is good and well, and it is real, and when it hits, it is
magical—but passively waiting for it, hoping for it… well, it’s
counter-intuitive to the work we do. Which is hoping to inspire others with our words.

Next lesson. In response to a follow-up question by the same
reporter, Frey revealed that he has two to three polished, publishable
pages written by dinnertime each evening. So, let’s say 15 pages a
week. In 40 hours of work. This number seems discouraging at first. I
mean, 40 hours of work for 15 pages? In other jobs, 40 hours
of work gets the framework of a house up, where once there was only a
bare cement slab. Or seals a multi-million dollar deal. Or feeds
hundreds of restaurant-goers.

But on the other hand, three pages of publishable work a day means
that you’ve written a publishable 400-page novel in just over six and a
half months. And any writer, agent, editor, or publisher will tell you
that’s pretty damn fast.

So the moral? Chase your inspiration. You’ll never find it any other way!

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