For anyone who thinks being an artist, a creator, whatever you want to call it, is easy, I’ve got news for you. It’s not, it’s hard work.
Sure, there are days when the words flow, the ideas pour out of you, you’re dripping in inspiration and the world is a bright, bright place.
But most days are ordinary days. Most days you’re just a regular person with regular thoughts, regular problems, regular duties. And when you’re done with the regular things, you realize you haven’t created anything yet. And the easiest thing to do is to climb into bed and tend to “that creative thing” tomorrow. That’s the thing though, tomorrow never comes. It’s always today. And today is the day where you need to make something.
There are people who’ll vaguely discuss what makes a professional a professional. Like, “Oh, you’re a professional when you get paid.” Or “You’re a professional when you’ve been published.” Or “Professionals are people who are experts in their field, respected by industry leaders.” And all those may be true.
But I’ve found the most effective definition to be:
A professional is someone who is relentless about his craft, who practices when he doesn’t want to, who never stops learning, and who creates products with value.
“Relentless about his craft, who practices when he doesn’t want to.”
That particular point is the tough one. That’s the one that keeps the professional out of bed when the work isn’t finished. That’s the one that keeps Facebook closed and notifications muted. That’s the one that gets him up early even though the covers are soft and his eyelids heavy. Because we live in a world with hundreds of millions of creators. A world where every skill is able to be learned by an inexpensive video course. The people who end up staying professionals are the ones who don’t stop learning, don’t stop evolving, don’t stop improving.
It’s easy to create things when you’re feeling inspired, when you feel like it, when you really want to. What isn’t easy is practicing your craft when you really don’t want to, when the well has run dry, you’re all out of ideas and all you want to do is crawl into bed.
In these infinitely more common moments, it’s important to realize that this is where real progress is possible.
Coming up with an idea when you’re drawing a blank requires real exercise. It’s this exercise that will push you to new limits.
So, remember this: practice when you don’t want to.
Creativity is a muscle like any other and to keep it strong requires relentless practice. Athletes don’t become a champions through going to the gym only when they’re feeling energized or inspired. Jobs don’t get done by people who come to work when they feel like it. And creators don’t become professionals through irregular inspiration.
The work you produce when you don’t even want to be making anything might not be your best work, but it is the work that will make you stronger, it’s the work that’ll make you better.