"It occurs to me that in my adulthood I've vehemently espoused the idea that "being an artist" is not a state of being at all. I've ridiculed that idea, called myself in bohemian moments of unproductivity a poseur. Just having produced art--in my case, mostly, having written things--is what makes an artist, and is the point of the "creative life." As if the whole shifting plasma of thoughts, feelings, interactions, and experiences that finds its nexus in my body was nothing but a production line, and if I was serious at all I would be looking at weak links to eliminate.
Though this idea has freed me up to try to work even when I don't feel inspired, I wonder whether it has cheapened the experience of (or the search for) inspiration. I also wonder whether feeling like an artist--enjoying that heady and visceral experience of individuality, of total concentration combined with free association, the pleasure of synthesis, of making something--was and perhaps should be again my primary goal, reason for writing at all. Just that I enjoy it. Just that I find life, and find life meaningful in it.
I wonder too if this detachment from notions of inspiration and process has made me consider my inspirations less sacred, caused me to betray them or default on them at the last minute. The deadline might scare you into sitting down at your desk, but does it produce the best ideas or the patience and pleasure required to see them through?
I have been so scared to stop working lately."
- journal, February 25, 2017
"My soul is not a little white bird. I haven't any soul, nor much of agonized ambition any more. I shall go ahead, but I wonder whether that sharp agony of words will occur to me again. I wonder whether I shall ever be drunken with rhythms any more . . . I shall write good novels but hereafter I ride Pegasus with a saddle and bucking pads, and martingale, for I am afraid Pegasus will rear and kick, and I am not the sure steady horseman I once was."
- Steinbeck, letter to Dook, February 25, 1928