A group of writers in Chichester coming together once a month for inspiration, collaboration and sensation

12 Quotes on Inspiration


1) “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” (Jack London)

2) “Don’t wait for inspiration, but sit down quietly, and begin; once you have gotten to work, shut up, even to yourself, about writer’s block; use your imagination, and keep working. . . .

“A homely example that a student gave me: she said that using discipline and not waiting for inspiration feels like someone who owns a bucket with which she hopes to catch rainwater. If she went out with the bucket only when she knew it was actually raining, she would certainly get some water sometimes. But if she goes out daily no matter what the weather she can catch the rain that falls unexpectedly.

“The curious truth . . . is that the writer who goes out with the bucket daily seems to provoke the rain.”
(Leonard Wolf, quoted by Naomi Wolf in The Treehouse: Eccentric Wisdom From My Father on How to Live, Love, and See, Simon and Schuster, 2005)

3) “You can’t rely on inspiration. I don’t even believe in inspiration. I just believe in working. Work generates work. What frustrates me horribly is not knowing what I’m going to do next. And so you force something to happen. . . . You can’t sit around thinking. You have to sit around working.” (David Long, interviewed by Linda B. Swanson-Davies in The Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction: Inspiration and Discipline, Writers Digest Books, 2007)

4) “Better beware of notions like genius and inspiration. They are a sort of magic wand and should be used sparingly by anybody who wants to see things clearly.” (José Ortega y Gasset, Notes on the Novel, 1925)

5) “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 the ten years of my life I totally wasted waiting for inspiration.” (Stendhal [Marie-Henri Beyle], quoted by Enrique Vila-Matas in Bartleby & Co, New Directions, 2004)

6) “I can’t explain inspiration. A writer is either compelled to write or not. And if I waited for inspiration I wouldn’t really be a writer.” (Toni Morrison, quoted in Time magazine, January 21, 1998)

7) “I have learned, as has many another better writer, to summon inspiration to my call as soon as I begin my day’s stint, and not to hang around waiting for it. Inspiration is merely a pretty phrase for the zest to work. And it can be cultivated by anyone who has the patience to try. Inspiration that will not come at its possessor’s summons is like a dog that cannot be trained to obey. The sooner both are gotten rid of, the better.” (Albert Payson Terhune, Writer’s Digest, June 1930)

8) “All this about inspiration. . . . I think writing is mainly work. Like a mechanic’s job. A mechanic might as well say he was waiting for inspiration before he greased your car because if he didn’t feel just right he’d miss a lot of the grease points, that he had to feel right up to it.” (E.B. White in an interview with Robert Van Gelder, The New York Times, August 2, 1942)

9) “There are those . . . who think that the man who works with his imagination should allow himself to wait till–inspiration moves him. When I have heard such doctrine preached, I have hardly been able to repress my scorn. 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, An Autobiography, 1883)

10) “What Romantic terminology called genius or talent or inspiration is nothing other than finding the right road empirically, following one’s nose, taking shortcuts.” (Italo Calvino, “Cybernetics and Ghosts,” November 1969)

11) “I’ve always disliked words like ‘inspiration.’ Writing is probably like a scientist thinking about some scientific problem or an engineer about an engineering problem.” (Doris Lessing)

12) “And I think what I’ve always recognized about writing is that I don’t put much value in so-called inspiration. The value is in how many times you can redo something.” (John Irving, National Book Award Interview, June 3, 2005)


About Helen J Beal

I love writing, reading, sailing, water, beaches, knitting sometimes, cakes, cashmere, silk and prosecco always and the odd pork pie. Give me fresh air and a good night's sleep and I can win the world.

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This entry was posted on October 24, 2012 by in Writing Insights.
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