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What does it mean, hm, to be inspired?

I'm sorry. You may have noticed, too - it's been ages since I've been here. I'm trying to be better, but when you find yourself trying, and failing, to meet the quality standards you have in your own head, it can be discouraging to try at all.

Comic transcript

What does it mean to be inspired?

What, really, does it mean?

You sit at the table, waiting for it, waiting for the portal to the universe of inspiration to dump something in your lap, but as the hours crawl by, your mind only manages to squeeze out half-formed ideas. You play with them, turning them this way and that.

Then you kill them. They won't do. They're too inferior.

The pile of crumpled paper continues to grow...

Tick, says the clock.

Tick, tick.

'Dear Lord,' you gasp. 'Have I finally run out of inspiration? Is this the end?'

I am empty, you think to yourself.

The portal finally opens, but instead of a nugget of inspiration, what you see are words. You raise your head from your slumped position to read the words. They belong to another creative. Chuck Close. The words appear to be mocking you. You can even imagine a sneer.

'Inspiration is for amateurs,' says Chuck Close. 'The rest of us just show up and get to work.'

The portal closes, and now you're a child. No more than seven. Face scrunched up in concentration as you try to draw the really pretty horse you've drawn a million times already for your classmates. You want this horse to be special, as you're drawing it for Sophia, a girl in your class that you like.

But you aren't in class. You're alone, and someone is towering over you. It's you, but from the future. It's you as a man.

You say to you, 'hey kid. Did I ever tell you the story of the centipede?' Without waiting for an answer, you continue.

'Once upon a time...

A centipede walked into a bar.

'Two beers please,' he said.

'You have so many legs', says the bartender, conversationally. 'How do you manage to coordinate them?'

'Instinct,' says the centipede. 'I don't think about it. My legs just move and take me where I'm supposed to go.'

'Well, you should give it thought. Wouldn't it be nice to know just how you're doing it? How you're making all those legs move so perfectly together?'

The centipede, for the first time in his life, attempted to walk by paying attention to which leg goes where and discovered it was so complex and confusing.

The centipede was unable to walk ever again.'

Child You looks up at Adult You.

'Mogwai,' you say.

'Yes, Mogwai?' you reply.

'Am I the centipede? Have I become undone by trying to unravel my creative process? By trying to decipher my inspiration?'

'No, kid', you say. 'You're just an amateur.

You put an arm around your shoulder and stare into the horizon.

'Now we must become professionals. We must show up and get to work.'

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