What do we need to make it work?

Are you a serious writer? What does that mean, exactly?

Thomas Edison

I’m sure you are all familiar with the famous quote by Thomas Edison about invention being 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.

If that were the case, a serious writer would not wait around to be inspired to produce their work. You would grab your lunch pail and show up at work every day to pound out 3,000 words or more.

There’s truth to that.

Anyone who writes on a deadline knows this feeling. You roll up your sleeves and get it done. You don’t wait to be inspired or you could be staring at the computer screen all day.

You follow a schedule and have goals. You write even when you have other things tugging at you. That is not inspiration but perspiration. Those of you who are trying to turn writing into a business, not just a hobby, should embrace the concept of hard work.

Writing every day. No matter what.

Ah, but how important is that 1% that Edison included in his quote? Perhaps without that 1% gift from our unidentified source, you might not be able to get up at four in the morning to produce another three chapters before “work.”

I know, serious writers don’t believe in that stuff—do they?

To me, inspiration is an insatiable need combined with an unexplainable optimism that keeps me going when it’s tough.

It helps us accomplish things that we never thought possible. Proof in point, the emotional rush I felt when I had the proof copy of The Card in my hands for the first time. How many of you have finished your first book and held it for the first time, wondering how you ever did it?

Inspiration, that’s how. That tiny 1%.

Inspiration is everywhere: music, books, nature, people, animals and more. This tiny 1% transforms us from readers to writers.

How many times have you been reading and practically throw the book aside and start scribbling down your next idea?

How many of you have music on when you write? I don’t always, but when I do, I know that I’m on a roll.

Who has ever witnessed a sunset or sunrise and felt an immediate desire to grab a paper and pen. Nature can grab that 1% while you’re hearing the pinging of sleet battering your window, seeing the blue, other-worldly glow inside an ice cave or feeling the infinite void of an ink black sky with pinholes of bright lights.

As writers, we look at the world differently. We don’t see someone’s junk when we sit down at a table in a bar when it hasn’t been cleaned. No, we see the lipstick-caked cocktail napkin and develop a story of why, at that moment, did she decide to remove any evidence of lipstick. The pretzels scattered across the table isn’t just a messy patron—I’m sure the bowl was knocked over while the couple rushed out without being seen. That would explain the half-finished beer.

That’s an example of the 1% inspiration that drives us. Most people would be looking for someone to clean the table, and we’ve already logged a scene in our brains for another chapter in our WIP.

Do you keep a notebook handy to capture these thoughts? Do you jot down notes in your iPhone to refer to later?

As a writer, we should be looking for inspiration everywhere. You should be so stoked about life and the ability to stir emotions in our readers that you see inspiration at every turn.

Just don’t forget the rest of Edison’s quote. Make time and plan for the other 99%—the hard work. Otherwise, you’re left with only inspiring yourself and cheating your readers out of the emotion and adventure they are seeking.

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Jim Devitt is a Contributing Author for Indies Unlimited and the author of the #1 Kindle Bestselling novel, THE CARD, For more information, please see the IU bio page or his blog:  http://jimdevitt.blogspot.com/

Author: Jim Devitt

Jim Devitt’s debut YA novel, The Card, hit #1 in three separate categories on the Kindle Bestseller list in early January and was a finalist in the Guys Can Read Indie Author Contest this past summer. Devitt currently lives in Miami, FL with his wife Melissa and their children. Learn more about Jim at his blog and his Amazon author page.

21 thoughts on “What do we need to make it work?”

  1. I need a bit of that 1% right now but I guess I'll have to settle for perspiration. Thanks for the pep talk. I needed it!

  2. Sometimes, by just putting in the perspiration, the inspiration follows. If you just write, the rest will come. Write without regard as to what you're writing. That's what editing and revisions are for!

  3. Hi Jim,

    I enjoyed reading your post, although my view of writing is perhaps a bit different than yours. I believe that the 1% you refer to is really our connection with our higher selves. Is that what you meant by "gift from an unidentifed source?"

    And if inspiration comes from a connection with source energy, as I believe it does, then writers can learn to tap into that zone at will through practices such as grounding and meditation. And from that place of flow,writing is the easiest and most intensely joyful experience on earth–100% of the time.



    1. Alix,

      What makes this all work is that our views are different and that we can share. Having said that, I do agree with you, that tapping in to inspiration is a practiced skill and that we all have the ability to find that.

      Thanks for the great comment.

  4. Great post, Jim. I do think writers walk in the world differently, always assessing, giving strangers background stories, and writing wee memos in notebooks,which, if found, would startle the average onlooker. Thanks for the reminder of the the common thing that should bind us: our attention to details that others may miss.

    1. That's a really good point, and your bar example a nice one, Jim. I forget that most people aren't in constant world analysis mode.

    2. Thanks Jo-Anne,

      It would be scary if they saw our notes. That's why I literally scribble them. No one else could ever decipher what I wrote!

  5. Fantastic post! I was nodding in agreement the whole way through. Living on a farm, I get to see all kinds of natural inspiration: the trees, birds, wildlife, and the changing of the seasons all mean much more when you farm and write.

    I am fortunate to have my own office in the house with a window that looks out onto the road. Sometimes things go by that inspire, other times, make you laugh–like seeing the General Lee go by regularly.

    As writers we must always be in that inspire mode. It seems to be just who we are. We live it, we breathe it, it is us.

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks K. Rowe,

      I appreciate the feedback. You are very lucky to be where you are, it sounds very fulfilling. I've never farmed, but I have had extensive vegetable gardens and can somewhat relate. There's something special about being in nature and getting your hands dirty.

  6. The hard work and discipline are a requirement, and the ability to see possibilities in a bowl of spilled pretzels makes us a special breed.

    The thunder just rolled overhead and I'm trying to figure out where to use that window-rattling sound.

    Great post!

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