Creatives: Work When You Don’t Feel Like It

Write, design, paint, create music – whatever you do, do it everyday. Get into the habit, and stop waiting for inspiration. Artist Chuck Close said, “Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, your output will be limited and you’re not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.”

Certainly some ideas come out of the blue – sometimes when least expected. But as journalist and novelist Mary Heaton Vorse said, “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.”

I have a lot more “unexpected” great ideas during periods when I’m putting in the work.

So get to it. Plan a time to work creatively every day and stick with it.  Otherwise, you’ll end up like Madeleine L’Engle suggested about the violin virtuoso Isaac Stern:

“I know writers who write only when inspiration comes. How would Isaac Stern play if he played the violin only when he felt like it? He would be lousy.”

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  1. This is very, very true for writers, in my experience. Even as recently as this week, I wasn’t sure how to approach a particular chapter of my current novel. Yet I found that by just writing the damn thing some fantastic ideas naturally revealed themselves. None of that inspiration would have taken place had I sat around waiting for the proverbial lightning bolt.

  2. Because off deadlines, I’ve always had to write (music) when I didn’t really feel like it. And, like Phil, I’ve found that the ideas come (even some pretty cool ideas!) when I just sit down in the chair and get after it. And after years of just showing up and suiting up, I find I can write something that works just fine even on “bad” days.

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