Don't feel bad for being unproductive with your book, just wait until you have this urge inside calling you to run and spill the thoughts into writing. Pushing yourself to write when there is no inspiration inside isn't good either, as it might not come out the right way. It's the same with painting: even though my head is always full of images and ideas, sometimes I feel a barrier inside that doesn't let me take a brush in my hand. But then there will be a time when the urge will be so strong that I'll quit everything and be painting non-stop for a while, and the end result will be just right...
I often hear artists say what you say and I always slap them for saying it.
I believe artists are no different than a janitor, a CEO, or a repairman. We have a job, just like everyone else. And just like everyone else, there are times when you don’t feel like going to work. However, you don’t hear the marketing manager say, “Sorry, I don’t feel inspired to do a powerpoint, so I'll won't go to work.” Or the accountant, “I don’t feel my muse to do a spreadsheet, so I'm going to take the rest of the day off.” Or a chef, “I don’t feel like cooking, so I'm staying home.”
Artists think they’re special. They think that because they’re creative, they have these special rights to work when they feel like it. I call that laziness.
Most jobs have a creative element. A manager working at Burger King has to come up with a creative solution to improve efficiency. A janitor cleaning a baseball stadium might develop a creative way of taking out the trash more quickly or getting less dirty. Finance MBAs come up with creative financial instruments. In short, nearly all jobs benefit from a creative mind. An artist's use of creativity isn't special.
Moreover, most successful writers, write whether they want to or not. Many set page or word limits for each day. Other best-selling authors force themselves to sit in front of a computer screen for 8-10 hours a day. Others get up at 4am and start writing no matter what. Over and over again I hear successful authors having a "no excuses" attitude about their work.
Of course, this doesn't mean that they're always productive. An office manager might come to work and just surf on the web all day and send personal emails. A product manager might spend all day designing a stupid product that ends up in the trash. Just because you write 1,000 words (or paint 2 paintings) doesn't mean your work is any good.
However, an artist must have discipline. Most amateur artists lack this. I'm guilty too. Here I am writing this long post which will have no impact on my future books. I'm procrastinating as I type these words. However, I recognize that if you want to move from being an amateur artist to a professional one, you have to work even when your muse is on vacation.
Michael Jordan, Jerry Rice, and Tiger Woods are all great athletes partly because they are talented, but mostly because they worked harder than their competitors. Their work ethic is legendary. As Edison said, "Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration."
By the way, this diatribe is meant for artists who aspire to live off their art. For those artists who do it just for fun, continue doing whatever you want. I have no aspirations to be a great volleyball player, so I can afford to just play when I feel like it. You may not want to sell any of your paintings (and have even less interest in making a living off of them), so you can continue to let your muse guide you and forgo any work ethic in art.
In conclusion, if you dream of being an artist, do what nearly anyone at the top of their profession does: practice, practice, practice (work, work, work). Not every day will be productive, but some that start off crappy might lead to a breakthrough. That tiny break might be the difference between being able to make a living off your art and keeping your day job.
And now with that pep talk, I gotta go write....