by CareerActually contributor, Amelia Ishikawa

amelia 2

I have something I want to write about, something I’ve decided will be exceedingly relevant and interesting. I’ve even toyed around with an opening line. However, every time I sit down to write it, it comes out all wrong. The words don’t co-operate with me, the topic seems dry and uninteresting and I’ve somehow lost my connection with it….for the time being.

Luckily, in times such as this, I remember one of my favourite quotes, from artist Chuck Close:

Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work.

I have called upon this quote many times in my life as I’ve struggled to get started, when I’ve been inclined to hang out for the angel of inspiration to visit me in my sleep and plant the perfect word or image or idea into my waiting, vacant brain.

It works every time.

So, how is ‘inspiration is for amateurs’ working for me this time around? Well, I’m writing this, which is arguably an improvement. It may not be what I planned, and it is certainly not as interesting and as insightful as I might have imagined, but this is definitely preferable to staring at a screen, moaning about my murdered mojo.

How can I connect all this back to our career story?

I use the word ‘story’ to illustrate that there are many points along the way in our careers when all we want is a flash of inspiration. What will be the next great plot twist? Is this chapter going anywhere? Do I need to add in some new characters? Sometimes we can acquire some inspiration by talking to colleagues or mentors, reading a biography, revisiting our values, taking a walk or having a chat with Aunty Google. However, sometimes inspiration has packed her bags and headed on a hike up Machu Picchu and no matter what number we phone, she just doesn’t have reception.

That’s when we evoke Chuck.

That’s when we just do something, anything at all that will shake us out of our malaise. For writers it may look like setting the novel aside and playing around with a short story or, for an artist it might involve dabbling in a new medium and for someone stuck for ideas regarding their next career move it might involve applying for a secondment, taking a short course, talking to a career practitioner or volunteering in an area of interest. We don’t wait for inspiration, we act in its absence. Amazingly, inspiration is attracted to action like a bee is to blossoms. All of a sudden one idea leads to another which then leads to a cross pollination and suddenly we’re producing fruit. That was an interesting fusion of thoughts and metaphors there, but you get the point.

Someone very wise once told me that inspiration works like a GPS, you will only be given the next instruction if you’re already moving. If you’re standing still it goes silent.

If you’ve made it to the end of this post, it means that I’m now inspired. Taking some time out from my original idea and playing around this one has renewed my energy and enthusiasm. I feel my mental block dissolving and I’m once again excited to give my original idea another crack.

Join me friends, set a timer for 10 minutes and do something, anything at all. You never know, it may just invite inspiration home…not that we need it, we’re pro’s.

until next time


Chuck CloseSource: Museum of Contemporary Art