1 Inspiration or Perspiration? | Traveling Light Blog by Travel Writer Colleen Friesen

Inspiration or Perspiration?




There are a few schools of thought on the subject of writing. Or perhaps put more succinctly, on how writing occurs.

There are those people who suggest habits and iron-clad routine:

Get up at 5 am! Write for 6 hours! Never ever miss a day or how the hell can you call yourself a writer?

This, I respectfully submit, might be called the Hardass Approach.  I think they might be the same people who insist on outlines but I’m not sure…

I kind of grew up under this plan.

Only difference was that I was learning piano…oh, and this might be a good time to point out that I had absolutely zero interest in learning the piano. However. That was not the point. The point was to work hard at whatever was set in front of me. Perspire and persevere were the unspoken operative words.

Self-discipline was the mantra (not that any self-respecting Mennonite of my childhood would have ever said a mantra…or, for that matter, known what one was. But still…).

summer mennonites

The opposing view goes like this:

Walk, have bubble baths, drink Scotch, shop, swan about and await the butterfly wings of the muse to alight upon your unfurrowed brow. In between the muse’s visits, dip into the occasional depression and have the odd cigarette to mollify yourself at how misunderstood and underappreciated you are.

This might be called the Indulged Flake Approach.

Given that I have spent a large part of my life either going 0 or 100 mph, with wildly vascillating approaches to writing (and to life), I am happy to report that I have more or less adopted a middle-of-the-road approach.

I believe that yes, I need to show up at the page. That is, I need to sit down at my laptop, open up the blank document or project I’m working on and take a stab at some action. I’m pretty sure that the muse might have a better chance of finding me if I meet the little winged creature halfway.


I no longer subscribe to the notion that I am an abject failure and tossed from the inner circle of ‘real’ writers, if life gets in between my writing moments.

In fact, I think that’s the point isn’t it? To have a life?

A life that includes writing as opposed to writing that excludes life…

It’s tricky, this ‘balanced writer’s life’ thing, but with every day I am allowed to still be on this earth, I swear it feels a little more attainable.

A little of this. A little of that.

First this. Then that.

An approach I recommend.


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4 Responses
  1. Laurie says:

    I love the pictures on this piece, and the whole idea of swanning about awaiting the butterfly muse to alight sounds soooo relaxing compared to constantly feeling shot-out-of-a-cannon variation. The ‘dip’ into depression is so adroitly dropped in there it’s hard to reconcile how braking/breaking and abrupt that dip can actually be except that it’s a reminder that particular oscillation usually has a corresponding rise if I can hang on long enough. Thanks for the oasis of respite!

  2. Mary Ediger says:

    Your blogs continually inspire me. But this one will stick like glue. Thank you.

  3. Colleen Friesen says:

    Laurie, glad to provide an oasis. The butterfly muse is most assuredly the most relaxing of approaches, except for the accompanying angst that I SHOULD be doing something.
    This middle-of-the-road approach works well, unless of course the big ol’ semi of depression is barrelling straight at me from down the middle of that self-same highway. Then, yes, one does feel like a dip (or pizza) in the road. But, like the old Roadrunner cartoons, flattened or not, we arise; the true miracle of cartoons, and life.

  4. Colleen Friesen says:

    Thanks Mary! I’m glad to be like some glue.
    When I was five or six, I was a big fan of LePages. It came in a litle plastic tub with a built-in applicator. After my construction paper project was done I’m quite sure there was no secret pleasure better than licking a little of the remaining glue off the end of that little wand.

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