Inspiration is for Amateurs And Other Advice I Should Take

12 Apr


Once every month or so I have this crazy burst of writing energy and stay up all night thinking and creating and FEELING ALIVE and the next day I let everyone know about it.

“Oh my gosh, last night the writing muse came.  Life is good!  Love is everywhere!  I’m a champion, my friend!  I’ll keep on fighting til the end!  Joshua Jackson!”

What follows is approximately 30 days of nothing.  Blah.  Writing to reach deadlines.  Writing because I’ve signed up for some crazy blogging challenge that I knew I could never meet.  Writing because this is the life I chose.  This is the life I choose.

“Oh my gosh, I’m the worst writer in the world.  Can one thing go right in my life please?  I give up. I’ll never write again. James Van Der Beek.”

(Seemed only appropriate to contrast Dawson and Pacey there, as always.)

Someone recently commented that it seems there’s always a lot of emotion at stake in my life.  Every second of every day, emotion is at stake.  I feel the ups and the downs and the in betweens times and I feel them big and I think writing only amplifies this.

Writing adds emotional stakes to my life.

Last week, Janet Scott Batchler came to Pepperdine for one of our lovely little panels and talked about her career as a writer.  I always get all starry-eyed when I meet successful female writers (my class with Robin Swicord  goes down as possibly the most inspirational hour of my life) and Janet was no exception.  She’s no-nonsense.  Talented.  Aware of her capabilities and unapologetic in her greatness.

I loved her.

Janet had a lot of things to say, and I could have listened to her all night, but the number one thing that stuck out to me was when someone asked about her writing routine.

You have to understand that at these writing panels, the question “What’s your writing routine?” comes up every. single. time.

I get it.  I do.  I think it’s fascinating that JK Rowling wrote in coffee shops. I love to hear Stephen King’s strong theories on writing spaces.  And when Ransom Riggs told the LA Times Book Festival Panel today that he writes on a bench with his wife, overlooking their yard and drinking tea I super sighed a bit.

I get it.

But I’ll be honest, sometimes these questions and answers get a little bland.

Enter Janet.


When asked about her writing routine, Janet just said, matter-of-factly, “Writing is my career. I don’t wait for a muse.  I get up every morning and I write.  Inspiration is for amateurs.”

I think I gasped a little when she said that. (I don’t know, really, I had a possible inspiration black out.) (Wait can I say that?) (I can say that.  I’m an amateur.  Inspiration is for me.)  I do know that I wrote that phrase down in my phone and then talked to her about it after the panel.

Inspiration is for amateurs.

Inspiration is for amateurs.

Inspiration is for amateurs!

(OK, I’m done being inspired.)

Janet went on to say that a Starbucks barista doesn’t wake up in the morning and go, “Did the coffee gods speak to me?  Am I sufficiently spiritually prepared for making this cappuccino?” They get up, put on their apron and go to work because that’s what they do.

Janet wakes up and puts words on paper because she’s a writer and that’s what she does.

My friend Koseli recently said something along the same lines. She wrote a beautiful piece on leaving New York and when I complimented her she said, “It’s something.  Better to write something than nothing right?  Abiding by that rule now.”

Of course something is better than nothing.  Of course we can’t be inspired every single day as writers.

Of course, of course, of course.

I’m a bit of a perfectionist (perfectionist perhaps being a euphemism for a bigger problem here) and this concept is hard for me.  Oh goodness this month of trying to blog all the time has been hard for me.

I like to plan my posts.  I like to really think about every word.  Edit.  Drop a post if I’m not feeling it.  Edit again.

And to blog this much and still go to school and go to work and be a person and a friend and a daughter…I feel like these April word posts are getting maybe 50% of what they should and I hate that.

This is the first time in my life I did not give 110% on the job and I hate that feeling!

(Name that movie.)

(Fun fact, I once watched that movie so often, Ashley’s mother took it away from the two of us because we no longer left the house, just sat in a daze watching and rewatching Hugh.)


After listening to Janet and swirling with these thoughts for awhile, I’ve decided that perhaps this month of blogging is a good exercise for me, after all.  That my anxiety over the posts I don’t love is maybe even helping me.

I’m writing.  I’m writing whether or not the muse comes.  I’m writing every day, sometimes very crappy posts I will never want to look at again.

But at least I am writing.

It’s better to write something than nothing.

Inspiration is for amateurs.

Inspiration is for amateurs.

Inspiration is for freaking amateurs.

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9 Responses to “Inspiration is for Amateurs And Other Advice I Should Take”

  1. Rachel G April 13, 2014 at 4:00 am #

    Hmmmm–interesting idea, and I can definitely see how needed it is for professional writers. It’s worth it to cultivate the skill of writing even when fleeting inspiration is not there at the moment.

  2. Toyota April 13, 2014 at 10:33 am #

    Oh my god, I’m finding it so hard too. I just write and publish as I’m too tired after working 10 hours a day and then trying to fit in a University degree to think of anything intellectual. I sit there afterwards in a daze and think that well that post was crap but at least I’m doing it. Last year I attempted to post for 30 days and I gave up and gave up on blogging for a little while too. It felt like a chore and I totally get that your posts are so emotion fuelled that it must be draining to put all that out there every day. My post are so personal that I’m feeling that in 30 days I’m putting too much of myself out there on the internet.

    Sorry for longest blog comment ever in the history of the world. Just want to say I love your writing style, it makes me smile

  3. lauren packer April 13, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

    i aboslutley love this post. i have tried to always live by the idea that i don’t believe in writers block. i sit down and i write. in my freshman creative writing class in college i got one of the most helpful pieces of advice as a writer: “shitty first drafts.” just write it down. it doesn’t matter. its a first draft. when i live by that philosophy and force myself to put words on paper, something comes out. it always does. it may not be good, but words always come out.

    • Bailey May 1, 2014 at 10:27 am #

      the shitty first drafts advice comes from Anne Lamott, my fave writer. it’s in her book “bird by bird,” you should read it!!!!

      her other big advice in that book is short assignments. just write a paragraph. just describe the bird in the tree you just saw. make it smaller, less intimidating.

      Anne also wrote “Traveling Mercies” which is my fave book. you should read that, too. 🙂

      • jillianlorraine May 12, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

        Adding Traveling Mercies to my list right now.

  4. Erika April 20, 2014 at 5:28 am #

    Oh my gosh — you should totally get the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I have a feeling you would LOVE it and it is totally on this same track, of showing up each day and just getting the work done.

    Also try watching Elizabeth Gilbert’d Ted Talk about the elusive creative genius (or something along those lines).

    Both of these pieces can really end up changing how you think about creative work and are on that same philosophy of inspiration being cultivated and grown rather than something to be struck by all willy nilly!

  5. Lindsay April 24, 2014 at 5:13 am #

    Love this post!! (And the movie is Two Weeks Notice. Die hard Sandra Bullock fan, right here) I always want to aim to be one of those people that just ‘do’ and don’t wait around for the mood to strike me. Something that probably needs to be put in more practice as of late, instead of just reading about others ‘doing’. Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. jules May 13, 2014 at 4:04 am #

    I really really love this post – I want to be a writer, but I find it really hard to stick to one project. I’ll start something and then get another idea and start that and then get bored of that one, so nothing ever gets finished! So I’m definitely stealing the ‘inspiration is for amateurs’ for motivation 😉

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