A lot of people think that all creative work begins with an idea, a spark of inspiration, a visit by the muse.

But honestly, a lot of creative work begins with…work.

With just sitting down to write and writing, setting up the paints and painting, pulling out the instrument and playing. Before any sort of inspiration happens, before any ideas have bubbled up, and sometimes way, way before any muse visits.

The work may not go well. You may write a dozen pages and later edit out more than half of them. Or even all of them. You may practice scales and etudes for an hour and hit more wrong notes than right ones. You may work at creating art and end up not creating anything you find worthwhile. And that’s okay. Because before we are inspired, before we are swept up in the flow, before we lose track of time in the creative dance, we must first show up.

Because if you don’t show up, the muse won’t either.

So you write, even when you have nothing to say. And it is hard. And it is uncomfortable. And it is work. Which is, after all, part of “creative-work”.

It’s not the most exciting part, but it may just be the most important. Because when we show up, when we work at creativity, we grow.

When we work at anything we grow. Relationships need us to show up in order to develop. Our family needs us to show up in order to build strong bonds. Our communities, our neighbors, our churches, our world needs us to show up – to offer up what we have, whatever that is – to grow.

And our creativity needs us to show up in order to grow too.

Honest effort is never wasted, no matter what you do or don’t see on the page or the canvas right away, because you are moving forward and you are growing and you are improving in ways you might not see, not the least of which is the very fact of your putting in the effort when it’s most difficult.

Look, we’d all like to live up there on the mountaintop all the time. We’d love to be inspired every single day and with every word we write. Who wouldn’t want to sit down and summon inspiration and be in the zone always?

But the truth is, none of us are. And that’s okay.

Actually, when you think about it, that magic just might not feel as magical if it were always with you.

So we sit down to write and we write. We set up the easel and the paints and we paint. We turn on the metronome and we measure our notes and we play.

We put in the work, day in and day out, and we trust.

Trust that the muse will visit and that when she does the magic will be amazing.