Recently, I was asked to write an article for a publisher’s newsletter. The topic was “What inspires you each day?” Each day? I’m sorry, but I cannot be inspired every day. However, I can be motivated, even resolved, to work at my long-term goals every day. I am good at New Year’s Resolutions. Those of you who want to write and publish a book need to stick to your resolutions, too. It is good work, but it surely won’t get done in a day.
I think “inspiration” is often misunderstood. In popular culture, inspiration is a rare lightning strike, and creative people seem to discover or “channel” their most brilliant work in those moments of inspiration. Me, I come from the other school of thought, that old 98% perspiration theory. My attitude toward work is a more earthly, manageable and mechanical phenomenon. Every day, I sit down and get to work, whether I feel inspired or not. Despite my pragmatism, my daily work can be very artful and creative.
I have always been an avid reader, and I studied English in school because I wanted to get paid to read and write. I quickly recognized that I was different from the other writers. I don’t imagine I “have a novel in me”, and I don’t have one big idea or vision I feel driven to share with the world. (Although I do have lots of little ones – do they count?) Instead, my joy in reading, and my joy in writing, has to do with deconstruction. People build books, I take them apart. I love analysis, particularly of text and ideas, and that has made me well suited to be an editor.
(Photo courtesy of Larry Johnson, Creative Commons)
Analyzing a book is fun, but even more fun is imagining the better book it might be. It changes the way I read and think about books. It also leads me to help others, to explain these better ways of writing. I get to have wonderful, specific, right down to the paragraph /theme /setting conversations with writers who are still in the process of revision. I love that moment when someone says, “OH! So if I fix that, it will change everything!” And they dash off to rewrite, because their book will be so much better.
I do both editing and book design, and they both have their pleasures and challenges. But if I had to say which is most rewarding, it is that moment of enlightenment that someone gets to experience because of my rather uninspired, developed over a lifetime, not just in a day, editing skills. That’s the way progress is really made – new knowledge springs from the old, established knowledge.
Occasionally, you will have that “Aha!” moment, and you will get to sprint ahead because you’re inspired. That’s a real pleasure. For today, New Year’s Day, I invite you to recognize and give a nod of respect to your inner turtle, that slow-moving-toward-the finish-line part of yourself that gets the big jobs done. And may you get your big jobs done this year. Best wishes for 2012, -Nan
PS - What are you inspired to acheive this year? Let us know!