Inspiration, Perspiration, Katherine

Katherine Longshore 2 Thursday, October 14, 2010
Thomas Edison famously said, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”  Now, I don’t know about genius, but writing sure works out along similar percentages.  Similar, but not exact.

Because writing requires a small percentage of inspiration.  A huge percentage of perspiration.  And the rest?  Well, I guess it depends on who you are.  But I require a percentage of…you.

You see, I need my writing community.  I always thought writing was an individual sport.  Solitary.  But then I went to my first SCBWI conference and met…other writers.  Wow.  Was I hooked.  And I realized that writing is a team sport.  Not like baseball, where you can’t get the batter out without the first baseman and the left fielder.  More like…Olympic swimming.  Usually, you’re in the lane alone.  But you practice together.  Support each other.  Push one another harder.  And sometimes?  You swim a relay.

OK, so maybe my sports analogies leave something to be desired.  But do you see what I’m getting at?

The past few weeks truly made this obvious to me.  I work hard when I revise.  I tend to be a little too hard on myself.  During every revision, I have one or two crises of confidence. (That sound you hear?  Is the other Muses, laughing behind their hands, trying desperately to keep my secret – because in reality, it’s more than one or two).  So I draw on my community of writer friends not only for creative feedback, but also for emotional support.

And boy do I get it.  My actual sister and sister writer, Martha Longshore, is always my first reader and best supporter.  The Muses don’t let me get away with much, but are the greatest team of readers and cheerleaders anyone could ask for.  Rarely a day goes by that we don’t hear from each other.  (Recently with lots of good news to celebrate!  More this week, with Oetinger buying the German rights to Veronica’s Under the Never Sky).  Bret Ballou (isn’t that just the greatest name for a children’s book writer?) not only gives frighteningly good critiques (you know the kind – “but I was hoping no one would notice that!  How do you do that?”) but also pops up in my e-mail inbox with delightfully cheerful words of reassurance and inspiration just when I need them.

I could go on, but this post would end up reading like an acknowledgments page and I would be getting off topic.

The point is, in writing, we all need to find our own balance.  How much of your writing is inspiration?  Is it only one percent?  Or is it ten?  How much is perspiration? I certainly sweat a lot over every project.  Sometimes every word.  And how much is community?  Writers?  Friends?  Family?  Because some days?  They are equally – if not more – important.  They are what keep us going.


99% inspiration, 100% perspiration, which puts me at 199% accounted for, if that's possible. The missing 1% is probably a glass of wine and "The Lord Of The Rings" DVD's. And being a mother. And sleeping in on Saturdays. It's very challenging to find any sort of balance between daily life and writing, these days, as I raise my energetic toddler--however, if at least 30 minutes a day is devoted to my work, I'm okay with that. I feel---like I can breathe easy (easier!).

pbwrites, we all write when we can. Talia gets a lot done on weekends. Donna has her coffee shop mornings. As long as we're writing? We're breathing. Keep it up!

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