Is Inspiration a Myth?

In one of my favorite interviews, Jean Stein (for the Paris Review) asks William Faulkner a series of rapid fire questions. In the middle of the flow of conversation, she says:

“You mentioned experience, observation, and imagination as being important for the writer. Would you include inspiration?”

Faulkner, never missing a beat, responds:

I don’t know anything about inspiration because I don’t know what inspiration is—I’ve heard about it, but I never saw it.

I absolutely love his response. As one of the titans of modern literature, Faulkner never calls upon inspiration as a a source. He adamantly refuses to believe that inspiration even exists.

He’s also known for having said:

I write only when I’m inspired. Fortunately I’m inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.

For Faulkner, inspiration was never a reason for writing or for not writing. He approached it as a discipline, a skill to be honed. It was never a matter of feeling the urge to write. Writing was a way of life.

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