“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 halfway, we easily become indolent and apathetic. We must be patient, and believe that inspiration will come to those who can master their disinclination.” -Peter Tchaikovsky, composer
Thank you to my friend Mary Kay over at Smooth Paths for sharing this quote with me. She works with the symphony and the quote is from a composer, but Mary Kay, also a writer, thought it was a lot like writing. How right she is!
I get asked a lot about when my next novel is coming out and I don’t always know what to say. Do I talk to the reader about book contracts? About writing schedules? Literary agents? Usually when I start talking about these things the person’s eyes sort of glaze over. As readers, if we like a book, we look forward to the author’s next one. Just tell us when it’s coming out!
Once, I asked a favorite novelist this same question:
Me: “I loved your novel! When does your next one come out?”
Favorite Novelist: “When I finish writing it.”
If you are a writer (or any kind of artist), then you know in your heart that my novelist friend’s answer is the right one. We are writing our books, aren’t we? We are not putting out junk. We are not in a rush (Disclaimer in case my agent, Chip, is reading this: I am hurrying a little bit). We are not simply dreaming up books that never make it to the page. We are doing the work.
I like what Tchaikovsky says: “We must always work.” Much of writing is about creativity, inspiration, and let’s face it, talent. No book worth reading was ever written by a writer of no talent (although some may debate the degree of talent an author has). If you have a writing gift, you are blessed, but you need more. The truth is, even with talent, anything worth reading and any art or music worth appreciating takes a lot of work, work, and more work.
No matter how much we artists stare at our blank screens and canvases and pray for our book to be written, for our art to be inspired, and for our poetry or music to make an impact on the world, we first have to meet inspiration halfway.
Now get to work!