Inspiration Overrated

I couldn’t resist using that catchy headline. It’s not true, of course. Who could place a value on inspiration? It’s the greatest thing in the world. But it is true that waiting for inspiration is a terrible waste of time.

“Had I mentioned to someone around 1795 that I planned to write, anyone with any sense would have told me to write for two hours every day, with or without inspiration. Their advice would have enabled me to benefit from ten years of my life I totally wasted waiting for inspiration.” —Stendhal

The poet X. J. Kennedy puts inspiration in perspective. Here are some lines from his poem, “On Being Accused of Wit,” which I have by heart because I need it so often —not because I am constantly being accused of wit, but because I constantly need to be reminded that inspiration is another word for hard work.

No, I am witless. Often in despair

At long-worked botches crumpled, thrown away—

A few lines worth the keeping, all too rare.

Blind chance not wit entices words to stay

And recognizing luck is artifice

That comes unlearned. The rest is taking pride

In daily labor. This and only this.

On keyboards sweat alone makes fingers glide.





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