Lucinda Elliot

That State of Inspiration

Years ago ,when young and impulsive, if not downright daft,  for some time I practised a savage sport called ‘Sportsfighting’, which contained elements of karate, judo, wrestling and other martial arts (‘Ah, youth!’ as Conrad made Edward Marlowe say). It was exciting and I became fascinated by it and worked hard at it; as I’m the dyspraxic sort of dyslexic, I was very proud that I eventually became expert at it, which all goes to show that even if you start off at something you’re really anxious to learn with a disadvantage, if your practice hard enough at it, you can get there; it’ll just take you a bit longer than those who start out without it.

It was quite addictive, and this addictive aspect is why I’m writing about it.
With all combat sports – or even with a street brawl, for that matter – there’s an adrenaline rush; that is largely what makes them addictive. It gives you a general
sort of ‘feelgood’ feeling – which makes you remarkably good-natured in between fights. People watching thought we must be mad to engage in such an activity, which required such long hours of training and conditioning; but they didn’t know about that wonderful feeling…

When reading Mari Biella’s recent, intriguing post about why writers write

it occurred to me that in most cases, for the dedicated minority of seeming lunatics – it’s unlikely to be for the financial reward, because while there is always the very real chance of creating a bestseller or anyway, making a comfortable living out of writing, realistically  one is more likely to make a nice sum of money far more easily through starting some business – something prosaic but useful; for instance, making tasty sandwiches to take round workplaces, tempting those unfortunates (increasingly common) who are working through their lunch breaks, or something on those lines (no good for me, that; my sandwiches are notoriously unappetizing).

It probably is partly for the recognition aspect. There are only a few things nicer than reading a glowing review of your work by someone on your wavelength, who knows exactly what you’re getting at, and why.

It’s certainly partly for the sheer joy of creation – of making up something new. There may be only a limited number of basic plots – I wrote a post about it only a few months ago and already I’ve forgotten the exact number of basic plots – I think it’s seven, though these can be broken down into further categories – but you can always make something new out of them.

But mainly, I think, it’s for the sheer joy of that rush you get when you are in a state of inspiration, and the words seem to write themselves; you’ve no idea where they’re coming from, or that you had it in you; it’s obviously an altered state of consciousness, and one we all treasure. It’s a true high.

We all court that in various ways; I find one way that makes it more likely (though still too rare) is by playing various sorts of music – sometimes, when doing that, a whole scene will come to me in a series of pictures. I heard somewhere that baroque music is supposed to be good at getting the two halves of the brain to work in unison (having forgotten how many basic plots there are, it seems to me getting my brain to work at all would be enough); as baroque is my favourite sort of music anyway, that’s a good excuse for listening to it.

When this state of inspiration does come – and all writers know that it only happens now and then, it isn’t the everyday thing that non writers imagine – it’s easily worth all those dull hours spent plodding away, writing things down and crossing them out, editing, and fuming over difficulties with the plot.


Sadly, with writers, that high doesn’t resemble the adrenaline rush in that it doesn’t make you good-natured in between bouts – quite the opposite, in fact (as I know again Mari Biella commented in another post – but I can’t link her twice in the same blog post or people will start thinking that I’m a search engine in my spare time). I really feel sorry for anyone who has to live with one of we writers with these moods swings– we’re a weird lot; one day ecstatic at having thought up some brilliant new scene, the next drooping over an inability to think up the next – perhaps it is a mental condition, and a cure will be found in the future: –

Wild Eyed Patient: – ‘Doctor, I have this urge to write stories. I even do it before breakfast sometimes. At first, I thought I could handle it, and stop any time I liked, but it’s becoming an obsession: I feel as if I can’t NOT write; I feel as if it’s taking over my life.

Doctor: – Don’t worry; it’s a fairly well-known syndrome; I want you to take two of these four times a day for the first week, and then two twice a day for the next; by then the urge should have gone completely. If not, come back to me, and we’ll go on to a stronger drug. Whatever you do, don’t try and live with it…

One Response

  1. Interesting post, Lucinda – and thanks for the mention! I think in my case it’s the high I feel when it’s going well and when I’m in the zone. It’s a bit like my drug, and I’m not unlike an addict. Is this a healthy way to be? Probably not… 🙂

Leave a Reply