There’s the old saying that goes:
something something something is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.
It’s not a very good saying obviously, but for some reason it’s stuck around. As we’ve seen elsewhere, inspiration is never actually more than 3% according to scientifically-proven FACT, it’s true you don’t even need to Google it. And it turns out that the amount of perspiration is vastly overstated as well, and one crucial piece is missing, which basically makes the whole thing useless.
Okay, it’s not completely wrong I guess. Inspiration and perspiration are both important parts to Doing the Work. But it leaves out a crucial piece that is frequently overlooked when we’re going back and reconstructing the Narrative of Our Moment of Genius.
That critical component is cultivation.
The mythical Flash of Genius is mostly just that … a myth. More often than not our A-ha moments aren’t lightning flashes from heaven as much as they are Take On Me, or maybe The Sun Always Shines on T.V.
BOOOOO! Sorry, that was terrible. There was this band, see, and they did these songs …
ANYWAY, what I meant to say there was that the Sudden Flash of Inspiration is most often actually the exclamation point on a slowly unfolding process that we sometimes don’t even notice is taking place. Frequently it starts as a sort of hunch, that maybe there’s an Interesting Solution out there worth thinking about, and maybe we’ll get around to thinking about it at some point.
When we get that initial flash of Inspiration, it’s tempting to think that all that remains is the Perspiration, and sometimes we jump the gun trying to Do Work before we’re really ready for it. This happens frequently in writing, but most certainly isn’t unique to writers.
In any creative endeavor, it can be extraordinarily helpful to set things aside for a time and do Something Else. Sometimes when we chase a solution, it’s squirrely and evasive and annoying and it thinks we’re playing WHEN WE’RE REALLY NOT. But when you go away for a little while, solutions have a way of coming to find you. It’s why so many of us have our Epiphanies when we’re driving or sleeping or showering or generally somewhere where there’s most likely not a pen handy.
So if you’ve had a Great Idea and you haven’t quite gotten around to Doing Anything About It, don’t beat yourself up. Between inspiration and perspiration, there needs to be room for cultivation.
Which is a fine way to explain why it is you’re sitting in a coffee shop perusing Twitter instead of finishing up Chapter Eight of your sequel, POSEY!