Sunday, February 14, 2010

Inspired or Driven?

Since my dad passed away over the holidays I've been doing a lot of thinking and processing about various issues. I've also been doing a ton of walking, during which I do my best thinking/processing. One of the issues I've spent a lot of time on over the last month and a half is my writing and, quite specifically, how my relationship with my father affected my attitude towards my writing achievements and my ability to enjoy each step along the way.

I go into this at length here if you're interested in the details. For this post, however, I want to focus on what makes writers write. Is it inspiration from the muse? Is it fun and joyful? Do they feel driven by external or internal forces? Does it hurt like swallowing broken glass?

Honestly, if it was as painful as the writer makes out in the above link, I would buy myself a couple of whips and just scourge myself if I was into that kind of masochism. Of course, he may be being facetious in the post. But even still, some writers contend that the creative process is painful for them. We're not just talking writer's block (and boy, if you want to start a debate, ask a group of authors what they think of the concept of writer's block) or a bad writing day; we're talking gut-wrenching, soul-crushing pain to get the words out.

Other writers I know talk happily about inspiration found in other books, movies, dreams, nature, random snippets of overheard conversation. No pain, just the pure pleasure of creation. On a good day, this is what it's like for me. I'm inspired by my story or my characters, or both, and the process is is fun.

I used to lie in bed and daydream my way into stories. It was a cross between dreaming and watching a movie; I could conjure characters and the worlds they inhabited in 3D, surround sound, and scratch-and-sniff smell-o-vision. The worlds in my head were as real as my every day life and I could not wait to write down the adventures of my characters (sometimes my alter-egos) when I drifted back to reality.

I'm working to get back to that mindset. When I wake up stressed in the middle of the night, I try and dream walk into my current WIP and capture that sense of magic I used to have. Dealing with the issues concerning writing/my father has definitely helped. But I still wonder what drives or inspires you all to spend your spare time on your books or stories. Are you inspired or driven? Is there really a difference? Inquiring minds still working out their own issues really want to know...


Ann Elle Altman said...

I'm sorry to hear about your father.

You make some really good points here in your blog. In answer to your question, I am both driven and inspired on a daily basis. I set goals for writing and I find that even if I'm not inspired, I will become so after 200 words or so. But, when I am inspired during the day, I take out my notebook and jot down my inspirations.


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

My condolences about your father.

I too see what's going on in my work in progress like a movie in my brain. That's what makes it so much fun to write--more or less having control, when we have so little in our real world.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Dana, I wish you strength in dealing with the loss of your father.

And you are the first writer to describe your creative process the same as I - like watching a movie. I always state that I begin with an outline before writing anything, but that's because I've already played the whole story out in my head.

Most of the inspiration is joyous, but I have written scenes through which I cried the whole time due to the emotional charge of the moment.

Morgan Mandel said...

I'm sorry about the loss of your father. From my own experience with losing my parents, I know it's impossible to ever really get over the loss of a loved one, but in time maybe you'll be able to not think about it as often.

As far as writing goes, I fluctuate from being inspired to feeling driven. Inspiration gets me going at the beginning of a manuscript and my drive keeps me continuing.

Morgan Mandel