Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Divine Inspiration or Just Plain Hard Work?-Taryn Hutchison

I always carry a notepad with me in case God inspires me with an idea or a way to turn a phrase. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and scribble away. While those moments of divine inspiration seem to be the exception, it’s so confirming when you sense the whisper of the Holy Spirit, when a “yes, that’s it!” resonates deep in your soul.

The norm, however, seems to be making yourself sit at your computer, putting your hands on the keyboard, and typing.

James Lee Burke’s novel, The Lost Get-Back Boogie, was rejected 111 times over a period of nine years, then published by Louisiana State University press and nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He wrote, “Don’t give up. I don’t think any other advice works. Writing is one of those things where you just have to do it. There will be far more people to discourage you than to encourage you. The time never comes to you, the inspiration doesn’t come to you. You just sit down and do it.”

My writing instructor told me she doesn’t believe in writer’s block. Like any profession, there are days you don’t feel like doing it, days you wish you didn’t have to go to work. But like those other jobs, you make yourself get out of bed and get dressed and go out there. Sometimes you find that when you start going through the motions, the desire comes later.

For me, almost every week during my one day to write, our landlady called in the construction workers or gardeners. I had to try to write to the head-throbbing sounds of power tools or leaf blowers. Some days, turning up the music wasn’t enough and I had to leave to take a brisk walk and some Advil (and pray) before I could focus.

My advice to you is this: Write without fear. Don’t think about editing until later. Just let the words and emotions flow. To write you must read. A lot. Learn as much as you can about writing. Hone the craft of writing, whether it’s through books about writing, online workshops, or writers’ conference. Start small with articles, short stories, or blogs. Get feedback from readers who will help you discern whether God has truly gifted you or whether you should just write for yourself. They’ll also help your skin become tougher.

But don’t let your heart get tough in the process. You need to keep it soft so your writing will speak to someone else’s heart.

Encouragement from the Experts to Keep Going:

"Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time…The wait is simply too long." Leonard S. Bernstein

“Treat it as a job – not a mystical calling. Then you’ll get up every morning and ‘go to work’ instead of waiting for the muse to attend you.” Jean Brody

“Write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you are writing, and aren’t writing particularly well." Agatha Christie

“Whether or not you write well, write bravely." Bill Stout

"You only learn to be a better writer by actually writing." Doris Lessing

"The writer's duty is to keep on writing…" William Styron

"You must write every single day of your life…You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads….may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world." Ray Bradbury

What About You?

Do you write mostly out of inspiration or perspiration? Do you have any tips for the rest of us?

Ask God to inspire you while you keep plugging away on the story you chose from your life.

A Contest:
Next week, be sure to submit your 300-500 word stories to Cindy – by December 14th! Send a 300-500 word story from your life to editor@womenoftheharvest.com . Cindy Blomquist (WOTH Editor) and I will read them and declare the first literary winner from the WOTH Writer’s Blog. The prize will be a $20 iTunes gift card (just in time for Christmas) and a spot in the March/April issue of the WOTH onlineMagazine!


Stephanie said...

I was struck by your first piece of advice... "write without fear". This has been a difficult hurdle for me to overcome. Fear of my inadequacy coupled with fear of my pride... a strange but genuine heart-mix! I fear what others will think of my writing. I fear I have been too vulnerable. At times, I fear I have been too harsh or that my "theology" is a bit fuzzy. ...fear has prompted a desire many times to just stop writing. And, yet, I can't seem to help it! I just keep writing and I love it! So, thanks for that piece of advice right at the top of the list--- it was very inspiring and encouraging to my sometimes-timid heart.

Linda said...

Dear Taryn, I just found this blog, thanks indirectly to my dear friend Kim who lives in East Africa and wrote a column on a different WOTH blog (yesterday, if I recall correctly). I'm a writer with a missionary memoir coming out next month so I read your posts with great interest and with a sense that all you wrote resonated within my soul and spirit. I am going to recommend this blog to several other writer friends. Many thanks for your inspiration and wisdom. I'll look forward to checking out your book. God bless you in your various ministries.

Women of the Harvest Blogs said...

@Stephanie...loved your comment. Here's a little tidbit I noticed when an author has submitted a piece to me: the more fear/vulnerablity she felt about her piece upon submission, the more I liked it and connected deeply with what she was writing. It usually is your best writing when the "nerves" kick in...don't we usually know it when an author plays it safe? Cindy

Anonymous said...


Okay, so I knew that I wanted to start writing two years ago. This fall I finally had a weekly schedule leaving me no excuse for not beginning to write. The whole fall I have bemoaned my inability to sit down and start writing. I really didnt know how or where to begin.

I was encouraged by your blog because you started out with validating our personal life experiences and then helped us narrow it down to writing about just one of the unforgettable stories. I am thankful for your blog. It has been the jump start and direction that I have needed.

Thank you,


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