The Inspiration Fairy (and other urban legends)

by Thomas Smith

It is
said to haunt the dark recesses of our reality, flitting in and out just beyond
the periphery of our vision. Silent as a shadow, ready to strike full-blown,
with little or no warning. Some people wait their whole lives and claim never
to have seen it. Others tell remarkable stories about their brushes with the
creature, their lives never to be the same after the soul-stirring encounter.
Still
others say it’s a load of cow cookies and you should be careful where you step.
Are they
talking about Bigfoot?
No. I’ve
seen actual pictures of the legendary Sasquatch right on the cover of The
National Enquirer.
Could it
be the Tooth Fairy?
Not
likely. Somebody has to deliver the dimes for those missing molars and bygone
bicuspids. And just like a hundred thousand dollar advance check, just because
you’ve never seen one, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

No, the
fictional creature most likely cooked up when some disgruntled writer received
one rejection letter too many is none other than the illusive Inspiration
Fairy
. Many a fledgling writer has sat staring at a blank computer screen
or a blank sheet of typing paper (I’m showing my age here…) waiting for
something to happen. Waiting for their muse to send smoke signals above the
tree line so that a certain tutu-clad bringer of words could swoop down and
whack said writer upon the noggin with the Strunk & White Genuine
Official Magic Word Wand (patent pending)
. Then the words will begin to
flow like a NASCAR fan’s kidneys on lap one eighty-seven.

Uh-huh.
People
who wait for this illusive creature are doomed to live a life of unfulfilled
dreams and more than a few excuses as to why they don’t write any more than
they do.
Thomas
F. Monteleone said it this way: “Writing equals ass in chair.” The corollary
to that singular truth is: Writing is mostly luck: The harder you work, the
luckier you get.
Which
brings me back to the point. To be a professional writer takes putting hundreds
of thousands of words on the page. It takes writing on a regular basis. Writing
when you feel like it, and when you don’t. It takes relying on the sum total of
your knowledge, your experience, your passions, your boredom, your triumphs,
your tragedies, good meals, bad desserts, good friends, bad influences, lazy
summer days and frosty winter nights. Faithful dogs, crisp autumn afternoons,
sticky red candy apples at the county fair, and mining the whole kit and
caboodle for the gems that lie buried within.
In short,
writing takes sitting down and plunging in, not waiting for inspiration.

The
need to write is inspiration enough. The wealth of living, loving, and life
itself stored inside you is more than enough fodder for more stories, articles,
plays, greeting cards, cereal boxes, books, songs, and cereal boxes than you
can possibly write in your lifetime.

We all
have stories inside us. We all have the raw materials needed to translate
thought to the written word. We all have the ability to think, to reason, to
research, to dream, to take a random thought or idea and turn it into an
article, essay, story, play, greeting card, bumper sticker, or novel. And the
finished product doesn’t rely on anything other than the God-given talents and
abilities you already have within you.
Your
challenge is to learn to access the ability at will. And that comes with
practice.
Lots of
practice.
You
don’t need to wait for the Inspiration Fairy to sprinkle inspiration dust on
your noggin.
You need
to write.
And
write.
And
write some more.
A
writer writes
.
It’s what we do. We write when we feel like it, and when we don’t. We write in
a white-hot torrent of words that seem to come from nowhere and everywhere, and
we write when every word feels like you’re giving birth to a Pterodactyl.
My
mentor (and close friend for over twenty years), the late Charles L Grant, gave
the keynote address at a writers conference a number of years ago, and said
some things that shook many of the people in the room either out of their
complacency, or out of the notion they wanted to be a writer. He said:

“There
is a difference in being an author and being a writer. For the better part of
the day I have talked with some nice people about being a writer. I have signed
about fifty books, I had lunch with a number of you and listened to you talk
about your writing projects, and I am up here now talking about what it is like
to be a working writer.

That’s
being an author.
“But
when I go back to my room tonight, while many of you are hanging out in the
lounge talking about writing, or at the open mic session reading your work, I
am going to be in my room trying my dead-level best to fix a real mess I have
created. I have painted my protagonist into a corner and I have no idea how I
am going to get him out of it. But I will figure it out tonight before I go to
sleep, because I have to have the book finished by tomorrow night so I can send
it to my wife [a professional editor] and have her edit the last three
chapters. Then I have to send it to the publisher by Monday. And I am going to
wrestle that bear to the ground because I don’t have a choice. I have a house
payment and a car payment to make and this is how I have made them for over
twenty years.
That’s
being a writer.”

You see,
people who wait for the Inspiration Fairy tend to publish very little, but they
have some great stories … about waiting for the Inspiration Fairy.