Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.
— Thomas Edison
Inspiration is for amateurs—the rest of us just show up and get to work.
— Chuck Close
Sometimes, there are moments during the creative process when you get into a state of flow, music seems to come out naturally, and everything feels effortless. But this is extremely rare. Most of the time, working on music feels like a thankless chore.
How is it that some musicians seem to be able to produce endless amounts of music in minimal time, while you feel like every note is a struggle? What’s the secret to finding the mythical “flow” state that will enable you to create music effortlessly?
The reality is that there are no shortcuts. The process of creating art is, fundamentally, a process of work. For most of us, every note really is a struggle, and this is simply the nature of the process. We have a romantic image of the artistic genius, who is able to spin endless amounts of material out of nothing, but these types of artists are extremely rare.
Rather than aspiring to this mysterious (and unrealistic) notion of what the process should be, try instead to embrace what it really is: hard work. There will be many points along the creative path when you’ll wish you were doing almost anything else. You will be plagued with doubt, fear, boredom, and disappointment. Learn to be OK with being miserable, because this will be a regular part of your existence as a creative musician.
By all means, if you do happen to find moments of inspiration and real flow, you should embrace them and let them take you as far as they can. But even in these rare cases, it’s usually only after a lot of painful effort that effortlessness takes over. Even the most fortunate, flow- prone artists don’t just get there immediately. As painful as it is, every project, for everyone, requires real work.