Monday, November 9, 2009

Inspiration vs. Perspiration

So, the question circling my mind over the weekend after leaving a very inspiring CANSCAIP Packaging Your Imagination conference in Toronto on Saturday was: What would I rather have as a partner in writing: inspiration or perspiration?

At first blush, I thought 'Give me inspiration any day!' Those flashes of, "Oh, wow, what an awesome idea!" or "Oh, wow! Why didn't I think of that before? That's the perfect solution to my plot problem!" Yeah, those moments - those flashes - is the drug of choice for writers. We keep looking for that next flash fix. The next moment when all the hard slog will be worth it.

But what about disliked, mostly avoided and underappreciated Perspiration? After all, who likes to sweat, right? It's stinky, uncomfortable, unpleasant and feels, for the most part, unproductive. Perspiration is a long, hard slog. No flash of sparkly brightness there. No great rush of adrenaline and excitement that keeps your spirits up. Perspiration is just long, dark tunnels that have to be dug out by hand, one hard, rocky shovel-full at a time. Not very glamorous, is it?

So guess which one I'd choose?

Yup. I'm a masochist. I'd rather have Perspiration in my corner any day. Flashes of inspiration are unpredictable. Flashes leave you a little starry-eyed and breathless but when they eventually leave (and Inspiration is a real fickle beast - she leaves a lot more than she comes) you feel more lost than ever. Perspiration, on the other hand, makes you work. But you are the one in control. You are the one digging day after day, mining that story. Perspiration helps you to make that thing work. You aren't letting something else control you or the outcome of your story. You aren't constantly waiting for something to make that story happen.

So, that's me and my Capricorn work ethic and control-freakiness talking. Don't get me wrong - I don't mind the occasional visit from flashy and breath-taking Inspiration once in a while. But give me old workhorse Perspiration for the long haul. That's what gets the book written. It ain't pretty but it's faithful.

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