Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

The gently rising street

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Normally, inspiration flourishes only on a foundation of very hard work. Not always, of course. The inspiration of an amateur can be as productive scientifically as that of an expert, or even more so. We owe many of our very best methods of tackling problems and our best insights to amateurs. The only difference between an amateur and an expert is, as Helmholtz observed about Robert Mayer, that the amateur lacks a tried and tested method of working. He is therefore mainly not in a position to judge or evaluate or pursue the implications of his inspiration. Inspiration does not do away with the need for work. And for its part, work cannot replace inspiration or force it to appear, any more than passion can. Both work and passion, and especially both together, can entice an idea. Ideas come in their own good time, not when we want them. In fact, the best ideas occur to us while smoking a cigar on the sofa, as Ihering says, or during a walk up a gently rising street, as Helmholtz observes of himself with scientific precision, or in some such way. At any rate, ideas come when they are least expected, rather than while you are racking your brains at your desk. But by the same token, they would not have made their appearance if we had not spent many hours pondering at our desks or brooding passionately over the problems facing us.

Max Weber, The Vocation Lectures

Written by nevalalee

December 23, 2017 at 7:30 am

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