Whilst working on my entry for Nothing Binding one of the fields asked for my sources of inspiration. There's no easy answer. It's not that I haven’t thought about it before, why one piece of writing is only okay while another one rocks. It's nothing to do with intelligence or ability. They're factors in the equation, more constants than variables. The critical issue is often to do with inspiration, but we'll come back to that.
First of all, what is writing, I mean beyond scribbling words down on scraps of paper? Why do I have to write? Why is writing the answer the thing I naturally gravitate towards when something affects me? Why don't I curl up in fœtal position or simply bang my head against a wall?
Okay, let's have a stab at it:
Creative writing: NOUN, a delayed sympathetic reaction following an emotional response to specific external stimuli expressed in words.
Not perfect but not bad. (Please feel free to have a go yourself.)
In others words, a red rag gets a bull's dander up and he charges. Writing is that charge and once the energy has been discharged (converted into words) that's it, you need another red rag. The catch is that, with the bull, the same rag will work ad infinitum – bulls are daft – but it doesn't work that way with inspiration. Inspiration is a one-off fix and you better damn well come and get it while it's hot. Think of it like a joke. Why does the one about the chicken crossing the road not work these days? It is still a joke but it's simply not funny any more.
I can think of numerous things that have been a catalyst in the writing process, for example, the death of my parents. I wrote a couple of excellent poems after my mum and dad passed away but not right away. In my father's case it was a year later; in my mother's, a whole five years elapsed. And that's something I've noticed: there's invariably a gestation period.
What do you do though when you're not inspired? Do you go looking for inspiration in alcohol or drugs? There's a whole whean (Scots: a good few or quite a lot) of writers who have and I can fully understand why. When I look back at my very best work and remember how it felt to write down those words, I'd do pretty much anything to get that feeling back if it worked; there's nothing like it. But I don't drink and I don't take drugs and that's not simply so I'm a good example to my daughter, I am scared that I do something that screws around with what's going on in my head.
There's an old expression, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, but I've always thought about why I write quite differently. I think the best writers are broken, generally not so badly that they can't function in society, but they are nevertheless not quite right. They're like the robot in Asimov's, The Bicentennial Man; if he got "fixed" then he would lose his creativity.
This blog is not inspired. That doesn't mean it is bad writing. Inspiration is good and there is a definite buzz to working while inspired but it is one thing to rattle down an eight-line poem during that high – a 50,000+ word novel is another beast entirely. When I was young and all I wrote was poetry, I got used to hanging around waiting on my muse-of-the-moment getting her act together but nowadays, though I freely admit I may not be in full control of the direction my writing takes, I can't afford to wait.