On Twitter last night, we had an interesting discussion about inspiration with writers and folks from the Whole Story Media Group. The central question was this:

Do you write when you are inspired, or do you write and find the inspiration through writing?

I’ll be the first to admit I find the idea of “inspiration” to be a bunch of hooey, to put it mildly. Sure, I walk around during the day and find myself thinking, “I should blog about that” or “That would make a great essay topic,” but those ideas would probably never come to my mind if I was not in the habit of writing regularly. Instead, I would just miss them, like a fly ball I didn’t even see going overhead. It takes a mind trained toward writing to notice these ideas for what they are.

A lot of my students say something like, “I write when the idea strikes me.” or “I wait for the muse to arrive.” This is dangerous, I think. What if the muse is busy with the gal who actually writes every day? What if the idea strikes somebody else when they look up and see that fly ball?

If I’m completely honest, I think folks use this idea of inspiration as an excuse to not be disciplined about their writing practice. Instead, we want to think writing is some esoteric, immutable thing that just “happens,” when in reality, writing is pragmatic, ever-changing, and doggone (I’d swear but I want this to be “safe for work” on StumbleUpon) hard work.

Do I wish that a beautiful man with slightly glowing skin (a la Edward without the need to drink blood or coddle whiny teenage girls) would appear at my desk and whisper ideas into my ear? Yes, I do . . . But I also wish said man would arrive on a white pony and whisk me off to a castle. These things don’t – often – happen this way.

So in the meantime, we work, every day, so that when the inspiration whispers, we see it . . . not just a fly ball but an irisdescent harvest moon wooing us.

What do you think? Do you write when you are inspired, or do you write and find the inspiration through writing?