Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Quotable Tuesday, III

"Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work." - Chuck Close

This quote motivates me.  It inspires (haha) me to approach my fiction writing with a workmanlike attitude.  Because ultimately, any large artistic output requires sustained effort, and that "rest of us" needs to keep in mind that a painting, or a novel (as is my case), or whatever, is a long haul and we have to be in for said long haul.

I will disagree with this quote, at least a little because, well, hey, inspiration is great.  But it is also fleeting.  And when I read that quote I feel that he is referring to that momentary flash, maybe the initial germination of the story idea, to those first few lines or paragraphs that are written under that special magical feeling of inspiration.  And yes, someone working on a novel needs to remain interested in the idea, and that is a form of inspiration, but not the type that he's addressing in this quote.

Perhaps this quote resonates because it seems to directly combat the way I once worked and approached writing.  Before college and during college the vast majority of my writing came because some momentary light of inspiration, the muse of old perhaps, struck me.  I would write the line, the paragraph, or if I was feeling particularly frisky and caffeinated, maybe a whole few pages.  Most of my finished output took the form of vignettes or short shorts.  I considered a ten-double-space-paged story to be a herculean accomplishment.  Anyway, that mode of production is certainly amateurish to my mind (maybe because I was such a true amateur at the time?).  That mode of production is hardly a mode of production at all - my total ouput, both "finished" pieces and even just notes etc. is minuscule.

I think now of my wife, who might initially balk at this quote though I don't think she'll ultimately be against it.  She is a fiction writer of luscious, dense prose.  She tends to work very slowly, revising each line or paragraph over and over again.  She often speaks of her need to have in her mind the voice of the story, the particular and unique way in which the narrator/characters speak, the particular way the prose is flowing.  And she seems to need that for a story to reach its maximum.  If she loses it, she'll often not be able to finish  the story.  Would Chuck Close tell her to just get to work?  I don't think so... I think he might respect her process if he got to know it, respect it as I do.  She works hard at her writing and her process is a different sort of thing...  Well, now that I think about it, she's probably gonna hate this quote...:)

I'm not one who really feels comfortable prescribing things to others, or making grand sweeping statements.  So, to each his or her own on this, but:  I do think that through consistent work you can create your own inspiration, you can create the mental atmosphere, the feeling, that cradles your creative work and sustains you in those endeavors.

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