First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.

— Octavia E. Butler

Can’t always wait for inspiration to strike.

Be in love with your life. Every minute of it.

—Jack Kerouac

I love this quote, though it’s not always easy. When things get tough or frustrating, sometimes you just need a change in perspective. Instead of “I have to”, say to yourself “I get to”.

“The greatest regret I have is that, early in my career, I showed myself such cruelty for not having accomplished anything significant. I spent so much time trying to write, but was paralyzed by how behind I felt. Many years later I realized that if I had written only a couple of pages a day, I would’ve written 500 pages at the end of a year (and that’s not even working weekends). Any contribution you make on a daily basis is fantastic.”

This quote is from Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner who said he spent so much time trying to write earlier on in his career that he was paralyzed by how behind he felt. I have felt the same way in the past, even now! But it’s more important and worthwhile to focus on creating. That’s only way you’ll catch up.

From his life advice for struggling artists.

You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.

— from We Bought a Zoo, which I recently enjoyed watching.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Lovely words to think about this weekend. This quote is from Mary Oliver’s poem The Summer Day.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down–
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

We become what we think about.

“Why do we become what we think about? Well I’ll tell you how it works as far as we know. Now to do this I want to tell you about a situation that parallels the human mind.

Suppose a farmer has some land and it’s good fertile land. Now the land gives the farmer a choice: he may plant in that land whatever he chooses — the land doesn’t care. It’s up to the farmer to make the decision. Now remember, we’re comparing the human mind with the land because the mind, like the land, doesn’t care what you plant in it. It will return what you plant, but it doesn’t care what you plant.

Now let’s say he has two seeds in his hand. One is a seed of corn. The other is nightshade, a deadly poison. He digs two little holes in the earth and he plants both seeds — one corn, the other nightshade. He covers up the holes, waters and takes care of the land, and what will happen? Invariably, the land will return what’s planted. As it’s written in the Bible: “As you sow, so shall you reap.” Now remember, the land doesn’t care. It will return poison in just as wonderful abundance as it does corn. So up come the two plants — one corn, one poison.

Now, the human mind is far more fertile, far more incredible and mysterious than the land but it works the same way. It doesn’t care what we plant. Success. Failure. A concrete worthwhile goal, or confusion. Misunderstanding, fear, anxiety and so on. But what we plant it must return to us. You see, the human mind is the last great unexplored continent on earth. It contains riches beyond our wildest dreams. It will return anything we want to plant.

Now you might say, ‘Well, if that’s true, why don’t more people use their minds more?’ …

Our mind comes with standard equipment at birth. It’s free, and things that have been given to us for nothing we place little value on. Things that we pay money for, we value. The paradox is that exactly the reverse is true. Everything that is really worthwhile in life came to us free.

Our minds, our souls, our bodies, our hopes, our dreams, our ambitions, our intelligence, our love of family and children and friends and country — all these priceless possessions are free. But the things that cost us money are actually very cheap and can be replaced at any time. A good man can be completely wiped out and make another fortune. He can do that several times. Even if our home burns down, we can rebuild it. But the things we got for nothing we can never replace.

The human mind isn’t used because we take it for granted. Familiarity breeds contempt. It can do any kind of job we assign to it, but generally speaking we use it for little jobs instead of big important ones. …

So decide now: What is it you want? Plant your goal in your mind. It’s the most important decision you will ever make in your entire life.”

You can listen to the whole audio recording of Earl Nightingale here:

(Long quote and video via Douglas Ernst)