Inspiration: A Long Wait for a Train Don’t Come

It’s 11:40 a.m. I’ve been up since 8:30. Working on my second cup of Earl Grey, waiting for inspiration to give me an idea to write about.

Just kidding. I never wait for inspiration. It never comes.

What works for me every time without fail is really quite mundane: I fire up my laptop, iPhone, or iPad and start writing. I usually have no idea what I’m going to write, but I start anyway.

Sometimes I will have had an idea come to me just as I was falling asleep the night before. And sometimes that idea is so important that I’ll get up and write it down so I can follow up on it the next day.

But most of the time, I just start writing. I don’t wait for an idea but simply start putting pen to paper (but only metaphorically: in my case, it’s pixels to screen).

Like so many other writers, I have a slew of bad habits: I drink, I smoke, and I swear a lot. Far more than I should.

But my drink of choice is tea, and my smoking is limited to a few puffs an hour from the e-cig that I used to get off cigarettes.

Maybe once every other week I’ll have a shot of tequila at our Friday night gathering, or a single glass of wine. But that’s it as far as alcohol goes.

It’s all about habits

Or routines: by developing the habit of writing every morning and incorporating it into my daily routine, I’ve forced myself to write whether or not I want to.

Like a drug habit, the more I do it the more I need to do it. I’m addicted to something I first took up as therapy. But unlike a drug habit, it won’t kill me. And as Nietzsche famously said (or would have, if he had been wise enough), “That which doesn’t kill me gives me a whole lot of unhealthy coping mechanisms and a very dark sense of humor.”

To which I would add, “That which doesn’t kill me had better run pretty damned fast!”

So as Paul Kantner once sang, “So drop your fucking bombs, burn your demon babies. I will be alive!”

Inspiration my ass. I’m gonna write something.


Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Once or twice a week I shop for them at Wegmans. They’re in the 2-for-1 bin, right next to the skyhooks, blinker fluid, and waterline.

Seriously, I really have no real idea where they come from. For example, as I was composing the previous sentence it occurred to me that I was ending it with a preposition, an error which would have my high school English teachers spinning in their graves.

But then I remembered how no less a writer than Winston Churchill once described that “rule” as “[A]rrant nonsense, up with which I will not put.” So I left it as it is.

And THERE, mon lecteur, is one source of ideas: other people.


I hate mornings, and yet that’s when I am most productive. Sometimes I’ll just lay in bed, watching a cloud of ideas swarming like gnats around my room. Suddenly one comes into focus and I grab it and write it down.

That’s why I keep a notepad on my nightstand…well, a virtual notepad, anyway: both my iPhone and iPad are always to hand for just such moments.

The gray, hazy few seconds between wake and sleep are fraught with clarity for me. Again, to the notebooks.

I subscribe to Medium, and read it every day. Sometimes something there will give me an idea, and so I’ll steal borrow it for inspiration.

Finally, there are times when I just sit down and force myself to write simply to be writing. Take this entry, for example: I had no idea what I was going to write until I wrote it.

Ultimately, THAT turns out to be where I get most of my ideas: by the very act of writing itself.

And, of course, there is always the ultimate inspiration: sitting down with a cup of strong tea and letting my mind wander.