Monday, July 14, 2008

Having a Foundation

Once again, Shore Leave 30 has come and gone. I'm always a little melancholy afterward. It's a trip I look forward to every year, it lasts two and a half days, and then it's over for a whole year. But I had a great time. Listened to some very entertaining actors, sat in on a few good panels. Attending a few about writing, as well. I'll post some pictures of the actors as soon as I get them from my roommate (my digital camera does well with close-ups, but sucks at taking good distance shots).

I wanted to mention something else, though, from the con. I was in a writing panel Saturday afternoon, and one of the writer panelists (Howard Weinstein, FYI) was discussing discipline, which led one of the attendees to mention "inspiration." At which point author Michael Jan Friedman made the following comment (and I'm paraphrasing from memory here):

"Many people liken inspiration to a lightning bolt from on high. Something that comes down and strikes you. But what most people forget is that lightning comes from the ground, not the sky. The ground is a solid foundation. Instead of waiting for inspiration to drop down on you, start with a good foundation."

He went on, illustrating his point that a foundation in discipline, mechanics of writing and storytelling trumped waiting for that inspirational strike from above. And I happen to agree with him.

Inspiration is awesome, but it can also be used as a crutch and an excuse. "Oh, sorry, the Muse is on vacation, so no writing got done today." "I don't know how to get Max out of the Dungeon of Doom, so I'm going to drink a latte and wait for inspiration to strike." Um, yeah. You could be waiting for a week or more. This is where the discipline part of that foundation comes in handy. By putting your Butt In Chair, no matter what, and writing something, no matter how dreadful or delete-worthy, you are giving yourself the discipline to finish something.

Rewriting is okay. Revising is always necessary. But you can't finish a first draft if you let yourself off the hook with, "I'm waiting for inspiration." Discipline yourself to write through the trouble spots, and you won't have to wait for inspiration. I'll be there waiting for you when you sit down to write.

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