Today on #IrishWritersWed I am delighted to welcome writer, musician and blogger Derek Flynn.
Derek has just published his debut novel Broken Falls, a crime novel set in a remote fishing village in Newfoundland.
Derek chats all about inspiration with us today ~ ‘We writers would probably prefer to think of our ideas as being delivered from on high by the Muses..’
I do hope you enjoy!!
Inspiration vs Perspiration
by Derek Flynn
“Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration”, goes the old saying by Thomas Edison.
We writers would probably prefer to think of our ideas as being delivered from on high by the Muses, as we lay back on a chaise longue like Oscar Wilde spouting witty monologues. But, it doesn’t work that way, unfortunately. The idea of the tortured but inspired artist goes back to the Romantics like Byron and Shelley, and beyond, but – while it’s a nice image – it’s far from the truth.
The ideas themselves, of course, often do come in a flash of inspiration. You’re standing in a queue at the bank or in the supermarket, or you’re out walking or jogging. Those times when your mind starts to wander and then – Boom! You get that flash, an idea that you know would make a great story. But, what next?
Well, of course, it’s what we do with the ideas that matters, and that’s where the perspiration comes in. I remember a successful writer talking about how people would often come up to him with an idea for a novel, saying that he should write it and they’d both be rich. Ideas are ten a penny, he would tell them; it’s what you do with the idea that’s important. So, after the initial inspiration comes the hard part: making something out of it.
In his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell repeatedly mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule”, claiming that the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill is practicing for a total of around 10,000 hours. Many writers have adapted the “10,000-Hour Rule” to the act of writing.
One of those is comic’s writer and script writer for the TV show “Lost”, Brian K Vaughan, who has some interesting thoughts on the subject.
“Every writer has 10,000 pages of crap in them, and the only way your writing is going to be any good at all is to work hard and hit 10,001.And this isn’t just some tired cliche, I believe that’s a provable mathematical equation. I started writing five pages a day, every single day, when I began my senior year of high school. That means I hit 10,001 roughly a year after I graduated NYU, which was exactly when I pitched Y: THE LAST MAN to Vertigo. It took a lot of lousy writing to get there, but I’m glad I stuck with it. And don’t worry, if you were busy actually having a life in high school and college, it’s never too late to begin your march towards 10,001.”
And indeed, it’s at this point that many writers scoff at the idea of inspiration.
Here’s Anthony Burgess:
“I leave the myth of inspiration and agonized creative inaction to the amateurs. The practice of a profession entails discipline, which for me meant the production of two thousand words of fair copy every day, weekends included.”
And I understand what he means – oftentimes “waiting for inspiration”, is writer-speak for “checking out TMZ.com”.
I also agree with Burgess’ workman-like attitude. And this is where the perspiration – the actual work, the putting one word in front of the other – comes in.
Many writers and artists say similar things:
“You should go to your room every day at nine o’ clock … and say to yourself, ‘I am going to sit here for four hours and write!’ … if you sit waiting for inspiration, you will sit there till you are an old man.”
– Winston Churchill
“And, sorry, all those romantic notions you have of absinthe spoons, manic episodes and Kerouac-like rambling on a long roll of butcher paper really aren’t operative. Creative work is mostly showing up every day and enduring a million tiny failures as you feel your way to something a bit new.”
– Chuck Close
“To me it would not be more absurd if the shoemaker were to wait for inspiration, or the tallow-chandler for the divine moment of melting.”
– Anthony Trollope
And yes, all these pearls of wisdom from the great writers and artists may sound terribly pessimistic – almost as they’re trying their best to deflate any notions of grand inspirations, and expose writing as a job, and a hard one at that.
But then, that wouldn’t be a bad thing, now would it?
“Broken Falls” follows Wyoming cop, John Ryan, who receives a package of letters from a recently deceased priest addressed to John’s late father. Unravelling the story behind the letters leads John to the remote fishing village of Broken Falls, Newfoundland, a place filled with strange and colourful characters, whose secrets are as old as the village itself.
As he attempts to find out what it was the dead priest did – and how he died – John must confront his own past and the secrets that his father tried so hard to hide.
Purchase Link ~ Broken Falls
Derek Flynn is an Irish writer and musician with a Masters in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin. Derek’s short story “The Healer” was featured in “Surge”, an anthology of the best new Irish writing published by O’ Brien Press.
Derek’s non-fiction has appeared in a number of publications, including the Irish Times.
He is also a regular contributor to Writing.ie, where he writes his “Songbook” column.
His debut novel “Broken Falls” – a crime/thriller based in Newfoundland – is on sale now.
Twitter ~ @derekf03
Website ~ http://www.derekflynnbooks.com/