Work Ethic and Inspiration

"A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper."E.B. White

Imagine a dusty old attic. This attic is full of boxes, old toys, photo albums, and other artifacts of the past, but in the center of the attic sits the most interesting item of all: a canvas covered by smears of different-colored paints. You see, this is no ordinary paint. It moves. The smears constantly shift, the colors seeming to dance as they blend here and separate there, never quite in the same way twice.

Underneath all of this commotion, at all times there is a painting waiting to be revealed. As the colors shift, the painting in turn continually becomes something else, but each reveal turns out to be beautiful. The canvas appears flat, and yet the artist can dip their hand into the pool of colors, grasping around as they attempt to forcefully extract the painting and present it to the world.

Sometimes the painting will patiently wait as the artist struggles, possibly in vain, but there are rare occasions when the painting grows impatient, bursting forth from the canvas and slapping the artist in the face to leave a colorful palm print behind.

This is what inspiration feels like to me.

As a writer, my mind (the attic) is usually filled with disjointed ideas, vague images, incomplete sentences (the canvas). Each time I sit down to write, my goal is to reach into the canvas and pull out something great. To take the mess and mold it into something I can be proud of. To draw out a line of thought I might not have conceived of otherwise, had I not made that first effort to simply start.

It should go without saying that I fail a lot of the time, everyone does, but I keep trying anyway and I encourage you to do so as well. That's part of the fun. It's also a necessary practice for any writer.

Unless your superpower is 'Having An Ah-Ha Moment Every Time You Write', you're going to sometimes struggle with your writing just like everyone else, including me. And that's okay! The most important thing you can do is find a comfortable place and simply start writing. Doesn't matter what you write at first, whether it's a bunch of stream-of-consciousness nonsense or the first chapter of your next great novel, the process is the most important thing.

Don't wait for inspiration to strike. It may never happen, and you'll have produced nothing. But if you force yourself to do the work, to make that struggle against all odds, that's where greatness comes from.

I'll leave you with this fantastic quote by composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky:

"There is no doubt that even the greatest musical geniuses have sometimes worked without inspiration. This guest does not always respond to the first invitation. We must always work, and a self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood. If we wait for the mood, without endeavouring to meet it half-way, we easily become indolent and apathetic. We must be patient, and believe that inspiration will come to those who can master their disinclination."