Bad Advice Wednesday: Get to Work

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour


Just do it!

I took questions from a group of high school students recently, and a kind of inquisition followed.  One kid, who’d seemed kind of sleepy as I spoke, said, Where do you get your inspiration?  From all around, I answered glibly.  All around what?  the kid asked.  All around my day, even from this moment now.  Talking to us? They all thought that was hilarious.  What will you write about us?  Well, that’s not the point, I said.  The point is, that inspiration is, true to its etymology, just a kind of breathing, a being breathed.  The old timers thought by God, thus the word.  But to me it’s the moment, the right now, that breathes us.

What about writers block? a kid said.

How do they know about writers block?  Someone had used that phrase on them and created an instant pathology in their minds.

It doesn’t exist, I said.

I can’t write sometimes, a kid said.

You can write anytime, I told him.

No, no, sometimes I sit down and try to write my story like for class and I can’t

Teacher in the back of the room nodding unhappily.

Well, let’s write.  And I gave them some arbitrary prompt (put a person named Chris Peters into a tense situation, that’s all).  And gave them three minutes.  The responses were great.  Chris was a woman, Chris was a man, Chris was young, Chris was old, Chris was Black, Chris was Asian, Chris had stolen something, Chris was in love, Chris had disappointed her parents, Chris didn’t speak English, and on and on.

That shit’s inspired, I said.  I always like to swear once or twice to a high school group because they respond to it.  Anyway, the point wass, they were inspired.  Not by me, or by Chris Peters, who was no one, but by doing.

Inspiration is in the doing.  Don’t wait for a great idea, don’t wait for the time, don’t wait to finish your research.  Just write.  Or paint.  Or whatever you want do get done.   Good or bad.  And the breath will come.


Bill Roorbach is a skier living in western Maine.

  1. Debora writes:

    Almost makes me want to be a teacher again…hmmm. Something about being inspired and wanting to help others be inspired–you know, help other people feel that. Plus kids are so fun to be around. When I think of all the funny things they said and did in class…cracks me up.

  2. Richard Gilbert writes:

    Ah, nice. You kicked their butts and gave them something to think about, Bill. Like you just did for us . . .

  3. Janine writes:

    Kick started by assignments… what many of us need. Or think we need, maybe.