An artist had better not wait to be inspired before beginning to work, since inspiration typically only comes to artists who are willing to work when not inspired. Tchaikovsky put it this way: “I’m inspired about every fifth day but I only get that fifth day if I show up the other four days.” This is one of the great truths about the creative process, that if you sit on your hands waiting for inspiration you will likely still be sitting there next month or next year.
That being the case, how can you stay motivated on all those days when you aren’t feeling inspired? Here’s the fifth of five tips!
5. Know that the fifth day that Tchaikovsky described is coming! Remember how process works: that inspiration is real but that it must be earned by paying attention to the work at hand, by being with the work, by not saying things like “I have no talent” or “I have no idea what I’m doing.” What you want to say instead is, “Process.” Let that rich, powerful word remind you that the creative process is exactly as it is: the way to wonderful, but only occasional inspiration.
That inspiration is only an occasional guest means that not everything we do will feel inspired or look inspired. We may make a few dull paintings for every lively one: so be it. We may spend a month unhappy that our creations look so dull: so be it. There’s a reason that every great artist’s work has a varied impact on us: some of it is more successful and some of it is less successful, some of it is more inspired and some of it is less inspired. Every artist must live with that reality, you and me included.