Inspiration or Compulsion?

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Do nothing. Be sure to rest afterwards.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is nothing at all. It’s often more difficult to sit still than to run around in a flurry of activity. If you do manage to stop all activity, a loud voice will enter your head and chastise you for being lazy, a loser, a washout. If you can resist that voice, then you might surprise yourself with inner peace and an occasional unanticipated inspiration.

I’ve considered myself a writer for almost fifty years now, and in the times I’ve lived with women, especially when there were small children around, I’ve never been able to convince a woman that sitting in front of a keyboard and staring off into space is “writing.” To them, writing was pecking away at the keys.

A typewriter made a lot more noise than a computer keyboard, and so the act of writing carried more audible weight. I understand now why many writers had a space separate from the family quarters to go to when working. Mark Twain had a beautiful little cottage near his even more beautiful big house.

I wonder what Tolstoy had at Yasnaya Polyana. I do know that his poor wife had to type two copies of the handwritten manuscript of War and Peace. They used to argue a lot.

Back before computers there was often only one good copy of a manuscript, and if that was lost, it was all she wrote. Harper Lee, the author of To Kill A Mockingbird was so sick of struggling with the book and so deep in despair that she threw the only copy of the manuscript out the window and into the snow. Then she called her editor who told her to go out and fetch the pages. She did.

If only there were a way to know for sure whether you’re acting on inspiration or mere compulsion. I’ve always envied people who are sure that when they invent something they’re actually channeling spirits. How convenient! Where did that idea come from? From above, obviously.

Before television and now the smart phone, people used to have a lot more down time within which to be inspired or hear spirit voices.

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