Uninspired writer
Uninspired writer, from a cartoon “FILM, FILM, FILM”, 1968, by Fyodor Khitruk

Have you ever been in a situation when you felt a writing block? You want to give up and feel like you’re the worst writer in the entire world. Well, I have. Some part of me says that I am a talentless failure, that I should give all this up. But luckily, there are way better writers and artists than I am, saying that this feeling of complete despair is rather normal, and battling the Inner Critic is an inevitable part of the work.

William Zinnisser in On Writing  – book not just for writers, but anyone who ever writes anything – highlights the ‘hard work’ that is often left overlooked behind an effortless-looking result.

Good writing doesn’t come naturally, though most people seem to think it does. Professional writers are constantly bearded by some people who say they’d like to “try a little writing sometime” – meaning when they retire from their real profession, like insurance or real estate, which is hard. Or they say, “I could write a book about that”. I doubt it. Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it IS hard.

Some people might say that writing isn’t the most difficult job that one can have. But what makes it difficult is that you have to battle with your malicious inner critic pretty much every day. It can be debilitating sometimes, but we still go on.

In 1955 graphic artist M.C. Escher wrote in his letter to his son Arthur about how he too battles with his own inner critic. But the driving force that’s been pushing him to pursue his art is tenaciousness, rather than talent.

Good God, I wish I’d learn to draw a little better! How much effort and persistence it costs to try to do it well. Every once in a while the stress of it all drives me to the point of a nervous breakdown. It is strictly a matter of persisting tenaciously with continuous and, if possible pitiless self-criticism. I believe that to produce prints the way I do is almost strictly a matter of wanting so terribly much to do it well. Talent and all that are really for the most part just baloney. Any schoolboy with a little aptitude can perhaps draw better than I; but what he lacks in most cases is that tenacious desire to make it a reality, that obstinate gnashing of teeth and saying, ‘Although I know it can’t be done, I want to do it anyway.’

Collection of lectures, letters and personal memoirs by the ingenious graphic artist M.C Escher. Eloquently written, it offers a great insight into the creative process and his most famous artworks.