Simple Words and Great Inspiration

“Keep going. You’re a mess and you’re happy.”

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Eight simple words, in two short sentences. Nothing elaborate or fancy and yet those words reached something in me that had long since gone into hiding. Those words took that elusive something by the hand and led it from the murky, shadowed depths of my mind, where it had been crouched, waiting for the right opportunity to rise again. What I mean to say is that, all flowery description aside (for which I must ask you to forgive me, it’s been a while since I’ve felt the urge to write like that), upon reading those few simple words in the author’s note at the front of my edition of The Book Thief, my inspiration to write was once more upon me.

I go through stages in my writing, as I imagine every writer does. Sometimes I can sit at my laptop (fondly and perhaps ever so childishly named Atticus) for days at a time and blast out pages upon pages. Other times I can sit in front of Atticus all day and write not but a few simple paragraphs. And then, of course, there are the frustratingly lengthy periods of time between my few inspired moments, during which I cannot write a single word and begin to fall into a pit of self doubt and self loathing. I confess, it is during those times that I feel compelled to ease my despair with excessive amounts of chocolate and something Jeffrey Dean Morgan related.

This blog is the only consistent(ish) writing that I do actually, and it’s rather tragic. You think tragic is too dramatic a word? Dear reader, if you have ever sat up at three in the morning, cradling a rapidly cooling cup of tea, staring at a blank computer screen and willing your brain to be a creative genius with little or no result, then you will understand that tragic is most definitely the right word. A lack of inspiration is a terrible thing for a writer, indeed for any creative person. My problem is not that I am short on ideas – in fact I have rather an abundance of them, to the point of being often overwhelming – but rather I am one of those people who is constantly doubting myself and my abilities as a writer. Strange really, considering I am somewhat aggressively self assured in most every other aspect of my life.

Unfortunately, when I cannot write as well or as much as I would like, I inevitably think of myself as a failure, which is followed by an imaginative slump and subsequent anger at my own inability to create. From there, I give up writing altogether and try to occupy myself with a sewing project or a book or some other activity that in no way reminds me of how appallingly bad I am at my chosen art. I know, I know, being so blatantly pessimistic about the whole endeavour is no way to achieve success but I am self critical to a fault. One of a number of character flaws that tend to directly affect my creative process.

Late last year I started writing a collection of somewhat macabre short horror stories. As a horror fan myself, my intention was to emulate the feelings I get when I read the work of Susan Hill or Joe Hill (incidentally no relation, but both fantastic authors in their own right). I have planned for at least ten of these short stories but as yet have only successfully completed one, and even that needs some adjustments and improvements. Again, my issue with being my own worst critic comes into play. I do find however, that by sharing my work with a select couple of people and receiving constructive criticism and helpful feedback, my writing is greatly improved. Except here of course, where I am not particularly concerned with much more than getting down the thoughts in my head. Alas, my horror stories showed such promise at the beginning, and now almost all interest and inspiration has dwindled to nothing and I can’t seem to reclaim either. See, tragic.

And yet, against recent odds and despite my crippling self doubt and lack of motivation, today I was inspired. Though I have never met him, and he hasn’t the faintest clue who I am or that I exist, Markus Zusak has given me a great gift. I had not expected today that when I picked up a book to read I would in fact not read it at all, and instead have the urge to write. Nevertheless, I am grateful.

To Markus Zusak, though you may never read this and never know how you have helped me, I thank you. You have inspired me, and I’ve not yet even read any of your work. I rather think that says a lot about an author and can only hope that one day, I shall be able to inspire someone else in the same way.

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