King on Inspiration

There’s a Stephen King quote: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” It’s a quote meant to quell the frustrations of writer’s block- that if you should simply sit down and do it, that you shouldn’t wait for inspiration. It’s a sentiment I agree with- there’s a trope of the writer with no material, who never actually writes. That “just get it done” attitude is needed for giving writers the agency needed to just get it done. But at the same time, I feel like inspiration won’t arrive just because you sat down to work. That doesn’t cure writer’s block, it doesn’t give you ideas, it won’t make a great work appear, suddenly, in front of you. For me, at least, I need to be thinking about a project a lot before I can just sit down to write. I think that’s an important distinction- you can’t wait for inspiration to find you, but at the same time, just sitting down to work isn’t the cure-all either. I need to be actively thinking about it and working on it for a while, then inspiration comes, eventually. It’s not guaranteed, then, either. King’s mantra isn’t a magical remedy, but he’s not wrong, either. 

2 Replies to “King on Inspiration”

  1. So, when I get writer’s block, I look up writing prompts to at least get something in a Word document. I suspect that King’s advice would look more like that in practicality. Writing something, even if it’s not THE thing you’re gonna stick with. I have a goddamn vault on my computer of old answers to writing prompts, but they lead to something eventually (even if I can’t pinpoint what that something was). The percolating comes after one has gotten some writing out, ya know?

  2. There’s another quote from Stephen King’s “On Writing” that touched me deeply enough to appear in sticky letters on my graduation cap: “You must not come lightly to the blank page.” I think about this quote every time I don’t feel like writing, or am afraid to begin editing a new piece. The act of writing is never easy, and the inspiration doesn’t always come. But the blank page shouldn’t be intimidating, because nothing on the blank page has to be perfect. We, as writers, are afforded an opportunity that no other major has; writers have second, third, fourth, fifth chances to get things right in revision. The best thing to do for writer’s block is to do the opposite of what you think you can’t do: write. Write all over that blank page with ridiculous nonsense, fragemented sentences, a limping short story, or something that’s bothering you. Tear that blank page with your pen. Just as the ink is flowing from the pen, the words will also begin to flow. A blank page isn’t scary; it’s an opportunity.

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