Every time I think about art, I know that deep in my soul I have the yearning to be artistic. I also know that at the surface, I face doubts, and comparison monsters (much thanks to Jani Franck for the brilliant name for them!), and… well, more doubts! I start thinking that I’m not good at art, and that I don’t have anything to create art about, and that even if I had a subject I could never do it justice.
Today I stumbled across Shaun Tan’s book The Bird King: An Artist’s Notebook and read the following quote in the Introduction:
I’m often wary of using the term “inspiration” to introduce my work — it sounds too much like a sun shower from the heavens, absorbed by a passive individual enjoying an especially receptive moment. While that may be the case on rare occasions when an idea pops into my head for no discernible reason, the reality is usually far more prosaic. Staring at a blank piece of paper, I can’t think of anything original. I feel utterly uninspired an unreceptive. It’s the familiar malaise of “artist’s block” and in such circumstances there is only one thing to do: just start drawing.
I have heard the same thing said of writing. There are tons of quotes from writers who have spoken (or written) of the dubious merits of a blank page. Ultimately, the only way through writer’s block is to write. In fact, when I look at some of my favorite quotes from writers about writing, I can relate to them all because they all have a common theme, which I know very well: writing can come naturally, but it’s still difficult. See for yourself:
“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it is done. It’s that easy, and that hard.” – Neil Gaiman
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway
“The first draft of anything is shit.” – Ernest Hemingway
“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” – E.L. Doctorow
“Writing is a delicious agony.” – Gwendolyn Brooks
It’s important to remind myself that even the most renowned writers struggle with writing. And I imagine that even the most renowned artists struggle with creating art. So then struggling to create is a natural part of the creation process, and I should welcome it as a sign that I am part of the club. Nike has the right idea, just do it!
For more of my favorite inspirational/writing quotes, check out this old post.