Why I Hate Picasso: Thoughts on Writer Inspiration

Picasso: this man will NOT help writers get inspired

(See this guy? Yeah . . . I’m not a fan)

Rumor has it that the late, great Picasso once said something like this:

“I don’t know what inspiration is, but when it comes, I hope it finds me working.”

I won’t lie: I’m not a big fan of Picasso. I don’t pretend to understand his art. The way he treated women was appalling. But it’s the quotation above that really makes me want to kick his little ass.

We’re artists. Inspiration isn’t a luxury. Inspiration is necessary for what we do.

Why writers need inspiration

There are those who will tell you that being an artist or writer is just like any other job. You don’t hear doctors or lawyers complaining about not being “inspired” by their work, and by golly, neither should we! We should just tough it out, plug along, and be miserable in our chosen professions.

Bullspittle. First of all, being a good doctor or lawyer should be a lifelong calling (just like being an artist). So if you’re one of those things and you’re not inspired, it’s still a problem. But it’s also a whole ‘nother blog post, so I’m gonna leave it alone for now.

Being an artist is different than being a doctor, lawyer, or anyone who works within a system whose outcomes are limited. Sure, sometimes a doctor may find a miracle cure for a patient, or lawyers manage to get an innocent person off death row at the 11th hour.

But most days, these professionals are dealing with a set of circumstances with known variables.

Doctor: “Either we will find cancer in that exploratory surgery or we won’t. If we do, we offer the patient options: more surgery, chemo, radiation, etc.”

Lawyer: “Defendant is accused of a crime, which, if she is convicted, carries specific penalties. We must go through steps a, b, and c in an attempt to prove her innocence, or introduce reasonable doubt into her case.”

Artist (positioning herself in front of keyboard or canvas): “I must come up with something no one has ever seen before, choosing from a range of possibilities and combinations that are infinite. Oh, and I have a deadline.”

Not exactly the same professions, are they?

Inspiration is part of the writer’s toolbox

Now, in no way do I want this to be misconstrued as a complaint about my chosen career. I am jackpot-lucky to be a writer. Really, I wake up every day and want to pinch myself. If food and rent were free, I wouldn’t charge a dime for what I do. Nor do I wish to argue how/why being a doctor/lawyer is more important than being a writer–or not.

It’s just that I take issue with the hard-asses who think inspiration is a namby-pamby, frilly-shilly, coddling psychobabble meant for the weak of heart. The smart doctor or lawyer makes sure she gets a good night’s sleep, has a hearty breakfast (with coffee), and goes to work with the tools of her trade sharpened and at her disposal.

Like the artist’s canvas and brushes and a writer’s lined pad or keyboard, inspiration is a tool of our trade. It’s necessary for what we do. It’s not a luxury we can afford to wait for, or hope it will just “come along” while we’re working.

Surrounding yourself with things, people, and ideas that inspire you will make your work a whole lot easier. The slog, tedium, and just plain unpleasantness we think is part of this “job” will decrease dramatically, and at times even vanish completely.

How writers find inspiration

Maybe it’s a playlist, or a favorite quotation tacked to your wall. Maybe it’s a collage you made of the reasons you’re an writer. Maybe it’s a drawing of what a favorite character in your novel looks like. But whatever it is, make sure you have it at the ready when you start working, because life is too short to live uninspired.

You know what they say: “Find a job you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life.” Life is not a sentence to be served, as if disease had already claimed your body, or you were convicted of a crime you didn’t commit. Life is supposed to be inspired and joyous.

Yes, even for lawyers. But like I said, that’s a whole ’nother blog post. ;-)

What do you think? Is inspiration a writer’s right? Tell me in the comments.

(Top image by Voyages. Doesn’t that name sound inspiring?)

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