Why you shouldn’t write, paint, or compose every day.

The blank page, the empty canvas, the silent room: these can be the most beautiful opportunity for creation, or the most tiresome, bothersome reminders that sometimes, you’ve got nothing. As a writer, artist, or musician, sometimes your only profound realisation is that you have no profound realisations.

Too many times have I sat staring the whiteness of my screen, trying to come up with an idea: something groundbreaking, something inspired. The vertical cursor blink, blink, blinks at me, a warning that I need to be writing, simply because that’s what I “do”. But sometimes, nothing comes: the well stays dry, my fingers still, and the page remains blank.

So, what do you do in this moment of creative constipation? Where does the mind go when every word you write is pained and every stroke you brush is artificial?

For me, diligence is rarely key. Creativity, inspiration, cannot be forced; it can only be felt. Inspiration is music, it is atmosphere; it is want, it is loss, and it is need. It’s where you go on a Saturday night and who you wake up to on a Sunday morning. It is what you see while you’re dreaming, what you think upon waking, and what keeps you up at night. It is all of these things, but it is never compulsory.

Stephen King has said that you’re not a writer, a painter, an anything at all, if you don’t practice every single day. But with all due respect to Mr. King, I’m compelled to disagree. You can write what you know—you can even write what you want to know—but if the inspiration isn’t there, sitting at a desk with a pen in your hand isn’t going to get you there any faster. Creation without inspiration is like sex without desire.

Being an artist isn’t about practicing that art constantly. It isn’t a nine to five, clock in, clock out experience. Art is about what you feel when you make it and the very reason you started making it at all. If you aren’t inspired, you can’t force it. Just take it from the person currently writing about the fact that I cannot write.

Art is not staring at a blank page, trying to inspire a creative climax: Art is starting with a feeling and leaving a little piece of yourself behind when you go.