American artist Chuck Close said, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightening to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.”
I encountered this quote last week while watching a documentary about design. Since then, I’ve been simmering in it, thinking about how the idea can apply to every activity, not just art-making. I find it tremendously liberating and empowering!
Just show up and do the work.
Any work you like. Anything you set your heart and mind to. Write. Talk. Love. Garden. Cook. Grow. Teach. Connect. Play. Heal. Lead. Create. There is no permission upon which we must wait, no special mastery we first must attain, no stroke of genius that must touch us beforehand. We can begin it — anything — right now.
And the way we begin is simply by showing up, making ourselves available, participating as fully as we can muster, and then choosing step by step by step.
We might assume that the luminaries in any field are those endowed with a special divine spark, those who drew a lucky hand of extra inspiration. Perhaps this is true in some cases, the once-in-a-generation talents, prodigies. But for most people, most of the time, greatness shines forth because we keep at it day after day, whether or not we’re glowing with visionary brilliance. Excellence isn’t a result of being more inspired or necessarily even more gifted, but rather about commitment and willingness.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with moments of inspiration. When the getting’s good, go for it! Everybody loves the feeling of spirit pouring through us effortlessly. It feels like grace. But that feeling can be like a drug from which we crash when it’s not flowing so easily and unobstructed. If we’re dependent upon it for creativity and productivity, when the spark is dim, we’re going to experience frustration and ennui, even despair.
In the documentary I watched (Abstract, on Netflix), German illustrator Christoph Niemann talked about his projects, every piece of work and every work day, being like a blank page before him. When he interacts with the empty sheet, drawing on it, sometimes what happens is exceptionally good; sometimes it’s not. In any case, the best and only thing he can ever do is to create a space in which there is a possibility that something can happen.
Then, it all becomes a matter of trust. Trusting ourselves to be enough. Trusting spirit to respond to our soul’s longing. Trusting that if we open up a space of possibility — engaging with whatever we’ve got, with all that we’ve got, however we feel, with whatever we feel — LIFE in all its rich magnificence will happen in this space.
Andy Warhol said, “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make more art.”
My prayer for all of us is lots of moments of ceiling-shattering inspiration. And to recognize that even when we’re not totally feeling all that, we’re invited anyway. Let’s do it, superstars!
I can’t wait to see you this Sunday, November 10. Service at 10:00 am. XO, Drew
© 2019 Drew Groves