Inspiration is for amateurs


Following up to “Genius is hard work“.

According to Paul Theroux

Anthony Trollope, wrote an account of his life when he was about 60; published a year after his death in 1882, it sank his reputation.

Straightforward in talking about his method in fiction, Trollope wrote, “There are those who…think that the man who works with his imagination should allow himself to wait till—inspiration moves him. When I have heard such doctrine preached, I have hardly been able to repress my scorn. To me it would not be more absurd if the shoemaker were to wait for inspiration, or the tallow-chandler for the divine moment of melting. If the man whose business it is to write has eaten too many good things, or has drunk too much, or smoked too many cigars—as men who write sometimes will do—then his condition may be unfavourable for work; but so will be the condition of a shoemaker who has been similarly imprudent….I was once told that the surest aid to the writing of a book was a piece of cobbler’s wax on my chair. I certainly believe in the cobbler’s wax much more than the inspiration.”

This bluff paragraph anticipated the modern painter Chuck Close’s saying, “Inspiration is for amateurs. I just get to work.” But this bum-on-seat assertion was held against Trollope and seemed to cast his work in so pedestrian a way that he went into eclipse for many years. If writing his novels was like cobbling—the reasoning went—his books could be no better than shoes. But Trollope was being his crusty self, and his defiant book represents a particular sort of no-nonsense English memoir.


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