Three Cocktail Questions

kurt_vonnegut ETB ScreenwritingI have a theory that every professional gets asked three annoying questions at a cocktail party.  These differ by profession.

If you are a screenwriter the questions are some variation of:  “Where do you get your ideas?”  “How do you find time to write?’ and “Would you like to hear a great idea for a movie?”  If we move past the irritation these questions turn out to be quite profound.

The first stupid question:  “Where do you get your ideas?”  is both a mystery and a terror.  No writer knows where inspiration comes from and every writer is terrified the spigot might somehow get turned off.

Inspiration is a gift pure and simple.  No one can control a gift.  It is given or not.  You can’t necessarily can’t earn it. And you probably don’t deserve it, in the grand scheme of things.

That leads me to Samuel Johnson, who wrote the following words in his diary on April 3, 1753, while working on his Dictionary of English.

“O God, who hast hitherto supported me, enable me to proceed in this labour & in the Whole task of my present state, that when I shall render up at the last day an account of the talent committed to me, I may receive pardon for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Kurt Vonnegut said once that he used the passage himself as a sort of writer’s prayer to say before work ,

That seems to be a wish to carry his (Samuel Johnson’s) talent as far and as fast as he can.

Yes. He was a notorious hack.

And you consider yourself a hack?

Of a sort.

If you’ve got a writer’s prayer or a way you cross your fingers, knock wood or seek the writing spark, please send it on!   Genius or hack all writers are nervous about the gift of inspiration– and what they do with it.  Including me!

Tomorrow: Stupid Question Number Two