With the ubiquity of the internet these days, I expected (well, hoped, anyway) some of the more whimsical ideas about creativity to finally die their proper deaths. It seems, however, that the internet is at least as good at perpetuating myths as it is at killing them.
This week, I have encountered not once, not twice, but three separate times (once online and twice in person) a particularly ridiculous idea that I was lucky enough to shed by the age of fourteen or so: "I cannot create if I'm not inspired."
I could throw out plenty of quotes by successful artists about the value of hard work over so-called inspiration, but you can search out those yourself. I'd rather approach this from a more personal vantage.
I have known what it is to be truly inspired. I have felt the serenity of being seemingly guided by some otherworldly force as I put words to the page, and everything that I got out was golden. When I was lucky, this feeling would last for a couple hours, giving me a few thousand words that needed minimal tweaking or editing. They just worked.
The feeling always went away before I had the entire story, though - and usually it doesn't last for hours. Usually it is just for a few moments, and often not when I am actually writing. I need to trust in memory or jot the ideas down before they escape, because inspiration struck in the shower or at work or - most often - just before I fall asleep (I have taken to jumping out of bed to write things down when this happens, now).
These quick visits of "The Muse" rarely garner me any more than a sentence or two, perhaps a quick exchange of dialogue, a plot point, or a visual scene. All these things need to be tied together, made sense of, and elaborated on with sufficient skill as to harness, not detract from, their perfection.
That part doesn't come with inspiration. It comes with work. Inspiration gives you an idea. Work makes it real.