My son recently said that he wants a job that does not feel like work. Much (or most?) of the world works to pay bills, and like my son, many people work hard every day expending energy that does not arise from passion but from necessity. I’ve always thought our world would improve quickly if we had government-sponsored sabbaticals–six months every three years–enough money to have our needs met for six months so that we can dream, draw, write, compose, play instruments, sew, wander, get lost, find ourselves, look elsewhere, focus right here, garden in the big juicy now. Creativity needs fallow time to gather energy.
What does all this have to do with writing? I think many of us have the perception that making art means experiencing one happy spark of creativity after another. So, yes, artists follow passion. But passion isn’t all peaches and cream. Passion requires discipline–the act of consistent work. Consistent work is a spiritual practice. We lay the paint on the canvas, snap the photo, write the word over and over again because we have faith in our passion. Practicing our craft one moment at a time is an act of shuttling between left and right brain. We weave together discipline, passion, play, and work. The intermingling of despair and joy, sweat and rest, meditation and light-speed inspiration powers our art.
So write with and through inspiration and drudgery. We need both.
We do need both. I read an Elizabeth Gilbert article somewhere, where she talks about being on book tour in six countries, but still forcing herself to write every day for a half hour, because she’d written a book saying that we have enough time in our lives to create; we can make time. So this morning I sat at my desk and took a half an hour to finish making some handwritten edits on a story. It felt so good.