Creative Inspiration vs. Writing as a Job

This article from Fuel Your Writing brings up a wonderful point. James Chartrand discusses author Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk on creativity at the 2009 TED conference. He highlights her belief in inspiration as something that comes from outside the writer as opposed to genius within the writer.

Chartrand mentions this moment in the speech, when Gilbert discusses talking to her absent muse:

Listen, you, thing, you and I both know that if this book isn’t brilliant that is not entirely my fault, right? Because you can see that I am putting everything I have into this, I don’t have any more than this. So if you want it to be better, then you’ve got to show up and do your part of the deal, okay? But if you don’t do that, you know what, the hell with it, I’m going to keep writing anyway because that’s my job. And I would please like the record to reflect today that I showed up for my part of the job.

Chartrand says, “I think this is brilliant. We’re used to not thinking of our creative endeavors as a job. A job is what makes you money, and then you write because you have to or because you want to or because you need an outlet for your creativity.” He goes on to discuss the importance of showing up for your muse, just as you expect your muse to show up for you.

I believe we should do everything we can to encourage inspirational moments, and that we must grab them hard with both hands when they arrive. I also believe in the “butt in chair” philosophy of writing—if you’re serious about it, it really is a job as well as creative playtime.

What do you think?

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World,

3 Responses to “Creative Inspiration vs. Writing as a Job”

  1. 1 Lua February 20, 2010 at 11:03 am

    I’ve been told that writing wasn’t a “real job” because no one could ever make much money writing… So I finished law school and after one week working as a lawyer I quit my job simply because I realized I wanted to be a professional writer and for me it was a job, not a hobby and as long as I worked as a lawyer, there was no way that I could ever become a writer.
    I also believe in being inspired and finding your muse… I write with music, nature always inspires me and just like you said “we must grab them hard with both hands when they arrive” but because it is a serious job for me, I get myself to my desk and sit my butt on my chair everyday and –muse or no muse- write! 🙂

  2. 2 Susie McCray February 20, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    When I’m writing just for fun or as a stress reliever, it’s hard for me to finish a project. When I’m writing for a work or school assignment, it’s much easier to make my muse get busy and finish what I started. I wish there were some way I could trick my muse into finishing all of my projects.

  3. 3 stranglingmymuse February 20, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    Thanks for stopping by and adding to the discussion, Lua and Susie!

    Lua, that’s a bold step you’ve taken to pursue your passion — good for you! I know it’s possible to make a living writing, because that’s how I make my living. I write many different kinds of things for money and for my own pleasure, and I enjoy them all, in different ways. Making a living as a writer can be difficult, but it’s also very rewarding!

    Susie, I’ve found that the longer I write, the better I am at finishing things I write for myself. But I also have many, many unfinished pieces I’ve written over the years. I don’t consider them failures — they’ve all been part of filling a reservoir of creative experience that have made me the writer I am today. So don’t be too hard on yourself! The most important thing is to keep writing.


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