This past week I taught a weeklong writing workshop at Esalen (on the Big Sur coast of California). Some of the writers in the room got as much as a quarter of their current book written—because they sat in their chairs and wrote! There is simply no substitute for showing up and doing the work.
If you want to produce a body of work you must produce it. Could anything be more obvious? And yet many artists hope that somehow their inventory will grow because they are thinking about painting or planning for painting or organizing their studio or buying materials or … you name it.
The writers wrote for four hours a day (I lectured for the other two). That amounted to a lot of writing, an exhausting amount of writing really, and many of the writers in fact got exhausted. But that sort of exhaustion is not to be feared. You just take a nap, go to bed early, take a walk in the fresh air, or in some other way recover.
The goal in life isn’t to never experience exhaustion! Sometimes we make ourselves stay put for longer than feels comfortable because we want to get a lot of work done. Yes, of course we stop if we know we’re about to make a huge mess, if our eyes are too bleary, or, to put it simply, if we really need to stop. But don’t we more often stop a little too soon?
There is no substitute for showing up and staying put. Don’t wait for inspiration. As Tchaikovsky put it, “I’m inspired every fifth day but I only get that divine inspiration if I’ve showed up the other four.” Don’t wait for anything. Show up, stay put, and maybe even exhaust yourself in the service of your work. That’s how a body of work grows!
Don’t miss my new book MAKING YOUR CREATIVE MARK