“INSPIRATION EXISTS, BUT IT HAS TO FIND YOU WORKING,” by Laurie Calkhoven (and Pablo Picasso)

It took me a long time to learn the truth of the Pablo Picasso quote in the headline.  I was one of those people who often said, “One day, I’m going to be a writer.” I wrote fiction all through grade school and high school. I majored in journalism in college, but that’s not really what I wanted to do. I wanted to write novels.

I went to work in book publishing and spent twenty years helping other people bring their books into the world. I was always going to write “one day.” What I was really waiting for was the idea that would transform me into a writer, the Eureka moment that in which I would become the next Anne Tyler, the next Alice Hoffman. Twenty years of not writing anything more than reports and memos—waiting for an idea.  I told myself that when the time was right, it would happen.

Of course it didn’t.

One day I was expressing that wish to a trusted friend. She pointed me toward Julia Cameron’s THE ARTIST’S WAY, a twelve week program to “awaken your creative soul.” One of the most important exercises in that program was to write Morning Pages—three longhand pages about anything that comes to mind, first thing every morning.

I loved Morning Pages. First I thought of them as a brain drain where I scribbled about the dreams that I had woken up with, the difficult meeting to come at work that day, the book I was reading, my argument with my sister.  But pretty soon, I was finding the seeds of short essays. And then a fiction idea –the first one like a BANG while I was reading the newspaper one morning.  And then I discovered I was a children’s writer! Who knew?

I got to work on my first novel, made a career switch to children’s publishing, and four years later left the corporate world behind to be a full-time writer.

After twenty years of sitting around waiting for an epiphany, I learned that all I had to do was show up on the page.  “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”


  1. I love this so much. Thanks for sharing your "aha!" moment.

  2. So true Laurie. One part inspiration and 99 parts perspiration...Thanks for the reminder.

  3. This is so true. One of my favorite quotes comes from Chuck Close, an artist who refuses to believe in painter's block: "Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work."

  4. This is such an inspiring post, Laurie!


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