Wednesday, January 16, 2013


The New Year always seems to start with new goals, new projects, even resolutions to better ourselves in some way or another.  But, of course, a few weeks in, many of those fall by the wayside and we’re left in a funk, compounded by feelings of failure for capitulating so soon!

Especially in a creative endeavor such as writing, those little demons can wreak havoc on our psyches.  And there is, really, only one antidote to all of that: Inspiration.  Elusive at times, but oh-so-joyful when we’re in the midst of her spell.

The word tracks back to mean, literally, in spirit. Those times when our fingers take off on their own, whirling through the keyboard (or pen to paper) and some outside force drives the story, the characters, and we find ourselves in the zone.  Everyone knows this feeling. We live for it.

But, of course, so much of our time as writers is spent slogging through the muck and the mire, cubby-holed-up in a quiet office somewhere, alone, trying to cajole that dang muse to get us back to the song and dance. As we all know, writing is a lonely endeavor. It’s a lot of hard work. From that point of initial inspiration to finishing a manuscript, well, we pretty much all could write a book on what’s required.  And sometimes I wonder why I just didn’t take up basket weaving (not that, mind you, I have any knowledge that it’s easier!).

I often think, when in that sort of trudging through the slough of despond, about a little book I read a zillion years ago called Hind’s Feet on High Places.  The main character slogs metaphorically and literally through and every time she’s about to give up she’s told, “Call the shepherd!”  This is a spiritual book, and I’m not here to proselytize for any religion.  In fact, I tend to think of the shepherd as that illusive muse called Inspiration.

And when she just won’t seem to come, I’ve learned to submit to the slogging.  Yep, to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, to quit putting an emotional value (such as, ‘You can’t write your way out of a paper sack!’ etc.) on the process, and to just write.  Of course, often in revision I can easily tell those un-inspired places.  Big deal.  They can always be rewritten, with renewed vigor, and, funnily enough, often end up some of the best pieces of all.  When Inspiration leaves, I’ve come to trust that she always at some point returns.

I’m mentioning all this now because after two years of that slogging, our new book, What's Wrong With My Family? And How to Live Your Best Life Anyway came out this week! What fun. A new book published always causes Inspiration to sing. It makes all the drudgery worth it, all the blood, sweat, tears (and wanting to shake my co-author! LOL) now be viewed with rose-colored glasses. A book!

Of course this gives a shot in the arm for new writing projects as well.  But, I know, sometime down the road, I’ll again hit a big ocean of mud. When I do, I’ll “feel” my way back to this day, the emotions surging up to propel me into this place of euphoria.  And, then, once again, Inspiration will sing.

With this latest release, award-winning author and editor Susan Mary Malone has five traditionally published books to her credit (fiction and nonfiction) and many published short stories. A freelance editor, forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers. You can see more about her, and what authors say about working with her, at:


  1. I love your book already for its inspired title! Congratulations.

    At its roots, inspire is actually to breathe in or into. The conflation of breath and spirit is ancient and found in many languages--ruach (רוח) in Hebrew, for example, both spirit and wind.

    Inspiration is an event. In writing, I would say that what transpires after one is inspired is even more important. Fingers flying over the keyboard in a state of flow, ideas cascading over each other, a whirlwind of words rushing into being as the writer perspires in fever-pitch invention, then breathes a sigh of satisfaction.

    It is a spiritual experience when the forces conspire in our favor, but so much of writing is the more tedious schlepping of words from one place to another. That uphill trek is the truer story behind storytelling.

  2. Susan, Kudos on your latest book. And thanks for the inspiring post. "Hind’s Feet on High Places" was one of my favorite reads—perhaps it is time to pull it off the shelf again and to read it with your muse perspective in mind.

    Larry, Love your comment. :-)

  3. Love that, Larry!
    And Susan--another Hind's Feet fan! Just loved that book.

    Thanks about the new book. What fun we had writing it!

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  5. When I hit those muddy patches, I remember what Nora Roberts says. "You can't fix a blank page." Or, I get out my writing shirt that says, "Even if it's crap, just get it on the page." You don't hit perfection the first time around. Or the second. Or ... well, you get it.

    Terry's Place

  6. Another timely post from ye olde BRP, as, at the moment, progress on my WIP is up to it's axles in mud ... I've been looking around for a tree to attach the cable from my bumper-mounted winch (have I tortured this metaphor enough ... let's see) and lo and behold I find it in this inspiring article. Let's hope that I have not hooked the cable to a sapling (guess not).

  7. Great comment, Larry -- inspire, transpire, perspire, conspire -- yes, to each and every one in the writing process. "Ruach" in Hebrew, "pneuma" in Greek, "inspire" in English -- it perpetuates life itself in any language.

    Excellent post, Susan, and congrats on your new book.

  8. What a great post and terrific comments. I love when the history of a word is explored. I had not heard of Hinds Feet, but it sounds like a book I would enjoy.

    Congrats, Susan, on your new book. I love the cover, by the way.

  9. Yep, Terry, that's the point--just get it on the page! And Christopher, you always make me laugh. What you just wrote was very creative! It extracted you straight out of that mud!

    Thanks to everyone about the new book. We're having so much fun with it already!

  10. Great post. I've had both the highs and the lows. Even during the highs when everything flows from your fingers to the screen and everything is brilliant, there will still be edits and rewrites and hair pulling.

  11. Susan, this post is a keeper. Sorry I couldn't join in the conversation yesterday but I was trudging through a different part of my life!

    I love the phrase "the slough of despond." This word pairing is new to me and tickles my inner wordsmith. You never know where inspiration is going to come from, do you...


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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