Leon and the Muse


I’ve been a Leon Russell fan forever. I’ve hung in there with him through his rock days, his blues days, his gospel days, and–with some angst–his country days. I always like an artist, whether it be a musician, a novelist, a screenwriter, a photographer–who’s not afraid to stretch and try new things, even if he or she might disappoint a few people along the way.

Anyway, ol’ Leon’s coming to town and I’m going to miss seeing him because I have a previous commitment, but the Raleigh paper did a nice article on him, and I was struck by the following quote:

“I enjoy writing. But it remains a mystery to me. The inspiration, just that whole process, is interesting. But I learned how to write without inspiration… It took me about 20 years to figure out how to write without inspiration. Thankfully, I got there.”

I love that quote! Once creating shifts from being a hobby to being both spiritual and monetary sustenance, you can no longer afford to wait for inspiration. If I waited for it, I would probably have written four books instead of eighteen. I believe there are ways to nurture inspiration, but whether it exists for an artist on any given day or not, he or she still needs to find a way to create, the same way a teacher still needs to teach or a bank teller needs to count out the twenties.

I like that Leon says it took him about 20 years to figure out how to write without inspiration. It didn’t take me quite that long to figure it out, but it did take me that long to be comfortable with the fact that the muse is not always sitting on my shoulder.

Now what’s with this line drawing, you ask? Well, I didn’t want to infringe on anyone’s copyright by stealing an actual photo of Leon off the web, so I had to draw him instead. This is why I’m a writer and not a visual artist! To see the real deal, click on his name above to visit his website.


  1. Denise on January 27, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    I like that quote, too! I just can’t imagine writing without inspiration, unless it was a term paper. Lol

  2. Mary on January 28, 2009 at 12:03 am

    I appreciate this at the moment since I’m sitting here trying to write and my muse is nowhere to be found. My pillow is more inspiring than my keyboard, but I’ll take heart from this article and persevere.
    Diane, I wonder if you’ve found that working though sometimes invites inspiration. Some of my best work – be it writing or teaching – has come just when I think I’m all out of inspiration.

  3. Margo on January 28, 2009 at 8:26 am

    Diane, I didn’t know you could draw too! This is a very good sketch of Leon…you are multi-talented!
    As a painter, I know what you are saying. Most days I am inspired to create but there are definitely days I’m not…but I create something everyday whether inspired or not and I think Mary has a very good point…working CAN invite inspiration. On the days I’m not quite into it, I still sit down and at least sketch an idea and quess what…I become inspired just by that small effort…before I know it the sketch becomes more than that and my creativity goes wild…for example, I was ‘duddling’ on paper the other day and that has now become the beginnings of a glass mosaic.
    What else have you drawn Diane?…do you sketch alot?

  4. Diane Chamberlain on January 28, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Margo, thanks for the sweet compliment. It makes me chuckle.
    Mary, you’re so right that working without inspiration invites inspiration. It’s that painful “put butt in chair and start typing even though you’d rather do anything else” phase that’s so hard.

  5. Gina on January 28, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    LOL Diane! In addition to writing, you draw too?
    Sorry, I don’t know who Leon Russell is. It’s a nice quote though.

  6. Margo on January 28, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    LOL DIANE!!!!!…you have such a way with words!
    I’m serious about your sketch tho…you’d be surprised how many people can’t draw a straight line
    I’m actually impressed with your version of Leon…your drawing looks just like him!

  7. Denise on January 28, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    These are a few F. Scott Fitzgerald quotes about writing that I thought I would share if for no other reason than I adore him. Lol
    ‘All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.’
    ‘An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmaster of ever afterwards.’

  8. Diane Chamberlain on January 29, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Love those quotes, Denise. I think writers need to remind themselves to come up for air every once in a while, though!

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