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Persistence and Faith and Hard Work

“You begin to string words together like beads to tell a story.”

Writer Anne Lamott continues, “You are desperate to communicate, to edify or entertain, to preserve moments of grace or joy or transcendence, to make real or imagined events come alive.

“But you cannot will this to happen. It is a matter of persistence and faith and hard work. So you might as well just go ahead and get started.”

From her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

Creativity researcher R. Keith Sawyer, PhD describes one kind of “beads” Lamott uses: “She takes index cards everywhere, knowing that small bits and pieces of dialogue or character traits or events might come to her at any time.

“These cards are then stored in a folder or a notebook, are frequently read, and much later can be slipped into an ongoing story, one that was not even conceived when the original snippet was written.”

That quote is from his chapter “Writing as a Collaborative Act” in the book The Psychology of Creative Writing, by Scott Barry Kaufman, James C. Kaufman, also used in my post: Creative Expression: Hard Work vs Inspiration from the Unconscious.

Maria Popova refers to Lamott’s quote in her Brain Pickings blog post Tchaikovsky on Work Ethic vs. Inspiration, and also quotes from a letter that composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote to his benefactress in 1878 about working with or without inspiration:

“Do not believe those who try to persuade you that composition is only a cold exercise of the intellect. The only music capable of moving and touching us is that which flows from the depths of a composer’s soul when he is stirred by inspiration. There is no doubt that even the greatest musical geniuses have sometimes worked without inspiration.

This guest does not always respond to the first invitation. We must always work, and a self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood. If we wait for the mood, without endeavouring to meet it half-way, we easily become indolent and apathetic. We must be patient, and believe that inspiration will come to those who can master their disinclination.”

Popova also includes this video by Jack White who affirms the same idea: “Inspiration and work ethic – they ride right next to each other.”

Image from post: Tips for beginners: Stringing beads.

Related articles:

Grit and perseverance mean more than talent and high aptitude.

Genius: The Modern View By David Brooks, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times. “The key factor separating geniuses from the merely accomplished is not a divine spark. It’s not I.Q., a generally bad predictor of success, even in realms like chess. Instead, it’s deliberate practice.”


Persistence and Faith and Hard Work

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2012). Persistence and Faith and Hard Work. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 8, 2020, from


Last updated: 31 Jul 2012
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