“The quality of writing I do on the days I don’t feel like it is just as good as the quality on the days I do feel like it.” John Kenneth Galbraith
What a liberating insight—and what value and comfort it offers us! Even a writer as polished and prolific as the widely admired John Kenneth Galbraith struggled with days when he didn’t feel like picking up his pen. And yet, he wrote on – and once he found his groove, his writing found its way. And it was good. Whatever creative endeavor we’re engaged in, we can take heart from John’s experience and his decision to keep going.
Consider how helpful this can be to us today or tomorrow or even next week, because, like our boy John, we all have “those days” – those days when we resist the page and the page resists us write back. I meant “right back,” but “write back” works even better because it says exactly what I mean. Let’s ponder exactly what kind of “those days” we may face as we go forward with our work, whatever it is, and see if John can help us onward:
It could be the day we feel under par or are struggling with a physical problem. When this happens, it’s so easy to turn away from our day’s work and give ourselves the excuse that we’re not well and won’t be at our best. And yet, though we might not feel like writing, if we sit down and start we may find that our pain melts away or at least recedes into the distance and that the muse rewards our decision with something delightful.
It could be the day we simply feel sluggish, dreary, and uninspired. When we’re in this mindset, it’s all too easy to say to ourselves that we’ll wait and give up on our work until we feel more “in the mood” to do it. And yet, as Madeleine L’Engle said so well, “Inspiration usually comes during work, not before it.” The very act of getting to work brings the muse to our side. So even if we’re feeling uninspired, inspiration can find us – if we signal our willingness to welcome it by showing up.
It could be the day we feel full of doubt and fear about what we’re doing and whether it’s good enough — worth our time and, potentially, our readers’ time. When doubt and fear strike our heart or worm their way into it, it’s easy to surrender, to give in to their siren song and stop. And yet, if we push on despite our doubts and fears, if we come to the page anyway, unsure but determined to do our best and fight through these feelings, then so often we find that they are paper tigers – that they aren’t as solid and forbidding as they seem. Instead of resisting, we can coexist peacefully and productively with them.
“Those days” are going to come our way, like the sunshine and the rain. But if we take heed of – and heart from – the knowledge that how we feel on any given day has nothing to do with how well we write, then we are already halfway home. Write on!