Igor Stravinsky once said that an artist must work even when no inspiration is present, because “inspiration comes from work as appetite comes from eating”.
Igor had a point there. I do have days – and I’m sure every writer and every other kind of artist has them – when I really don’t want to work. I feel uninspired. Writing feels like a job rather than a vocation.
Those are the days when we really have to sit down and write, paint, pot, sculpt, do something. We’ve chosen this work, and it’s up to us to do it. Art may be the only job where “I don’t feel like it” is considered by some to be a legitimate excuse for not doing the work.
Okay, yes, maybe the Muse is not with us today. Even without her (or him, as the case may be), there is work that can be done. Getting your hands into the clay or your fingers onto the keyboard is a tonic to the flat creative spirit. I’ve heard many writers advocate free-writing as a way to spark creativity and renew enthusiasm. You just write – you just write whatever comes to mind, a stream-of-consciousness exercise in keeping the pen or the keys moving.
Jake MacDonald, when he visited Thessalon last December, said that when he didn’t feel like writing, he’d think of all the people who had really hard jobs. Then he’d go back to his chosen work.
I’ve been lucky enough to work at things I love for most of my adult life. I’ve been a printmaker, a potter and a writer, and all by choice. Yes, there are good days and bad days, days when the Muse is there, and days when she’s not. I’ve had days when everything I wrote seemed like total crap. Later it seems I can usually salvage something from it, something I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t sat down, dammit, and written when I really didn’t want to.
I know this all sounds like I’m the most amazingly disciplined person. Maybe I am. It doesn’t seem so to me. I drag my feet, I procrastinate, I think of other things to do first. (I need to load the dishwasher before my counter disappears, the dog wants to play and she’s been so patient, I could use another cup of coffee, there’s those YA books I need to read and review for Canadian Children’s Book News, should I make biscotti for writers’ group this evening? I should research shepherding in Canada for that article, update my LinkedIn profile, pitch another case study, submit another story. Oh, there’s no end to the distractions, even without Facebook!)
No, I’m not perfect. I don’t always do what I know I should be doing. But I try to stay on track. I think I try my best, and I think that’s all we can do. Excuse me now. The dishwasher is calling my name, but I have writing to do.