Jean Croker Petke

Inspiration and Work

Inspiration and Work

“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us show up and get to work.” Those words are attributed to Chuck Close, a contemporary American artist.

How often do we wait for inspiration, before we sit down to write?


How often do we wait for inspiration, so we can finally begin our painting?


“I’m just not feeling it,” we often say.

“I’m waiting for my muse to arrive.”

We wait for some mystical, magical, unexplainable thing to happen that will grab our attention enough so we can do our work, whatever it is. But the waiting does not make it happen.

In On Becoming an Artist, Ellen Langer says, “All it takes to become an artist is to start doing art.”

Really? That’s it?

We always make things way more complicated than that. We do our research, we buy all the tools, we set up a space for our work, and on and on and on. We work hard to get ready, but we are never ready enough. There’s always more to do.

Our starting is endlessly delayed, by our own choices.

Perhaps we’re afraid of starting. Perhaps we’re afraid that we’ll produce junk. Perhaps we’re afraid we won’t do it right. Perhaps we’re afraid others will scoff. Besides, we’re not really creative.

Look deep. I suspect fears are lurking in your dark corners. Bring them to light, acknowledge their presence and power, and start anyway.

Matthew Fox says in Creativity, “When all is said and done, our true nature is our creativity.” If that’s true, and I believe it is, we are all creative, whether we realize it yet or not. We need to put aside a common belief that some people are creative and others are not, that some got a bigger share, and some got no share at all. Creativity, and the inspiration that accompanies it, is unique to each of us.

We need to check our definition of creativity. My library books contain a myriad of definitions. Here’s one that works for me:

engaging mindfully in something new

I often think about the chefs on Chopped. They’re presented with ingredients that don’t really go together, like lamb livers, candied orange slices and popcorn, and they must create an entrée. I’ve loved cooking for my entire adult life, and I’m creative in the kitchen, but I can’t do what they do. I engage mindfully in my own way with my kitchen ingredients.

The measure of our creativity is in our engagement in the process, not in our comparison to others.

I’ve used inspiration and creativity rather interchangeably in this post. While they’re not exactly the same, they often co-exist in our minds and in our experiences.

I like what Pablo Picasso said:

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.

So if you’re waiting to begin as soon as inspiration arrives, or you’ve never begun because you’re not creative, try this:

Show up.

Start working.

Inspiration and creativity will meet you there.



Until next Tuesday . . .