Staying Inspired

Staying inspired to keep writing by reading this essay collection.

Staying inspired to keep writing by reading this essay collection.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about staying inspired.

I’m not talking about finding ideas, characters, plots, essay topics or images for poems, but encouragement to keep writing and affirmation that writing is well worth the effort. I’m talking about staying inspired and knowing that regardless of where you’re writing – in an isolated garret on a desolate moor or at a table in a crowded café – you’re never really alone, but a member of an order called to articulate the fine points of human existence as you experience or imagine it, and that this is an honorable endeavor.

The most positive way I’ve found of staying inspired is

Another inspiring title.

Another inspiring title.

reading a well-written book about writing. Most recently, I read Ann Patchett’s collection of essays, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. It was a pleasure to learn about Patchett’s journey from a waitress to a journalist to a widely read novelist and now an owner of a successful independent bookstore in her hometown of Nashville, Tennessee.


And another.

And another.

The essays range from magazine assignments to pieces written specifically for this collection. As in any good collection, its organization creates a narrative arc so that the whole is greater than its parts. The book opens with Non-Ficton, an Introduction, in which Patchett tells the story of learning to support herself by writing non-fiction for Seventeen Magazine. The book concludes with an essay about Patchett’s former teacher turned friend, a seventy-eight year old nun who faces moving from communal living in the convent to live by herself in an apartment with little practical experience and a lifetime of faith.

A program to foster creativity.

A program to foster creativity.

In between these two essays are stories about being called to write and the importance of storytelling in her life. Patchett explains, “the story is in us, and all we have to do is sit there and write it down. But it’s right about there, right about when we sit down to write that story, that things fall apart.”

I’d be hard-pressed to explain why I find what could easily be considered a demoralizing observation inspirational, but I do. I supposed I’m thrilled to know that even a novelist of income-producing novels admits that while there is no question about being called to write, that doesn’t really make it easy.

Hugely inspirational.

Hugely inspirational.

I’m also inspired by Patchett’s moral courage. In The Right to Read, Patchett stands up to censorship, and in The Bookstore Strikes Back, she tells the remarkable story of starting an independent bookstore exactly when bricks and mortar chains are crumbling. This is brave stuff.

And of course, I loved the story of the happy marriage, the marriage that Patchett resisted for so long, the marriage that makes her a better person.

I don't know what I expected from the title, but I was hooked from the first sentence.

I was hooked from the first sentence.

This collection of funny and wise essays affirmed what and how I write, and it inspired me to keep on doing it.

Thank you, Ann Patchett.


Other inspiring books about the writing life that I’ve reviewed here include:

Where do you get your inspiration to keep pushing the pen forward?

Deborah Lee Luskin, M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin,
M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin is the author of the award-winning novel, Into The Wilderness, “a fiercely intelligent love story” set in Vermont in 1964. She is a regular Commentator on Vermont Public Radio, teaches for the Vermont Humanities Council and blogs at Living In Place and The Middle Ages.

30 thoughts on “Staying Inspired

  1. I’ll be sure to check out these books! And Steal Like An Artist is one of my FAVORITE books – all I wanted to do after reading it was take over the world.

  2. I LOVE This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. I found similar solace in it when I first read it, and have already returned to it more than once to give myself a booster shot of inspiration. Thanks for this spot-on articulation of why it’s such a wonderful read for writers, and thanks also for the other book suggestions. There are a couple in your list that I haven’t read yet. 🙂

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed this article. As a ‘determined’ writer I have read Bird by Bird which I loved and The Artist’s Way which I also found inspiring. I will keep this list for future reference and the Ann Patchett essays sound well worth a read. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Lately I’ve been getting my inspiration from reading a wide variety of blogs, each with its own unique approach, and particularly thoughtful ones like Live to Write – Write to Live 🙂

  5. Thank you for blog. I have noted suggestions. Will check them out. I have been getting my ongoing inspirations in recent months by daily blogging and actually reading and noting helpful advice and encouragement. Live to write ,write to Live is an excellent connection blog and inspires.

  6. I’ll keep that list in mind for the future, they seemed really interesting. Usually if I’m in need of inspiration I read blogs and books, listen to music or just take a walk. Anything that takes me away from actually writing for a bit.

  7. This was an excellent post. I’ve been following Live to Write, Write to Live for a few months now and always enjoy reading your various articles. They are very inspiring. Thank you for sharing so many wonderful resources. Also, it looks like YOU have written a book too. I will have to look for it. GREAT JOB – thank you!

  8. Pingback: Staying Inspired | sangev

  9. What a great list! I loved The Artist’s Way, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a bit of structure to help them along. I *almost* bought Steal Like an Artist recently, and based on the recommendations above, I think I’ll go treat myself!

  10. Pingback: Big Magic | Live to Write – Write to Live

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