Inspiration is one of the most difficult things to write about–like anything creative–because there is very little consensus about what the word symbolises. It’s easy to talk about it casually, because we agree to same generalities, but if I use the same language on myself constantly I’m likely to get frustrated with lack of direction.
Most of the time “inspiration” is used casually as a stronger word for “interesting”* or a softer word for “motivation”. As in:
That movie was really inspiring.
I’m not feeling particularly inspired.
Since inspiration brings a sense of immediate interest and motivation it feels like the thing I want to encourage the most, there is a security around it. But I can’t really cultivate inspiration in a precise way.
I can choose to surround myself with things I admire, love, and study–and they can provide me with pleasure, reflection, and perspective–but there is no way I can know what will inspire me, and not just interest me next.
Scholastically and personally too, I can fill my head, shelves, and sketchbooks with ideologies and policies but there is no guarantee that those will remain relevant to me (let alone my gorgeously beautiful artworks) tomorrow. Every time I’ve been inspired (blindly and willingly enscripted to creative action with no thoughts as to its meaning, motivation, or purpose) it has come as a casual surprise.
There are realizations that come through the unconscious through prompting. When problem solving the solution could arrive through being hands-on, or through a dream. Either way there is an active dialogue. Intuition can be strengthened by observation. Risk mitigated by experience.
Building familiarity with all of those things allows you to make mistakes with more ease.
Inspiration feels like chance. For some reason an alignment happens and before you know it you’re quitting your budding career as a paralegal and moving to another city to open a vegan bakery that’s only open until 3pm. The bigger the inspiration, the bigger the chance, the more foolish it might seem to others.
At least: gleaning inspiration from the air probably takes into account more than we can calculate with our tiny psychologies.
If I am feeling stuck pinning down a lack of inspiration as a centre to pull the strings of my frustration around devalues my own efforts and potential**. The feeling becomes that, without outside inspiration, the creative block is formed around the gravity of myself. I feel I own what I do.
Ideas then get judged on whether they bring the right validation as well as interest and motivation now. Most ideas are incomplete fragments that require them to be laced to one another. It’s easy to ditch these when you’re focused on finding the “big picture” idea that puts your practice into quick focus.
It’s not fun.
It’s like, though I know inspiration is mysterious, imagining an additional level of irrationality to the mix will create the clarity I want. And as much as love the prosaic–especially when it comes to talking about art and music–I think even the plainest language is confusing enough.
If you can look at the language you use, and find out what you mean by it, you’re likely going to find double/triple/quadruple or more meanings to the things you say. It’s much easier when you know what emotion you’re really invoking in yourself when you use words like: art, creative, interest, love, hate, design, music, etc.
Where do you draw the line? What isn’t music to you? Why not? All of the things you believe when you use the word in a statement. Many of the writer’s blocks we face are about inconsistencies in the relationships we’ve established for ourselves. (And we can find the entrance and exit to some of those in our language.)
In the cases where “inspiration” means interest and motivation the cognitive dissonance (believing two opposing things) just doesn’t help. Having an interest and being motivated are internally generated states, which we feel. Inspiration means divine guidance, a realization/release, that happens to us.
I might not be able to force inspiration. But if I accept that I receive it (whether that spiritual or psychology or both or whatever) then I have to make room for it. Part of that might be about sitting still and being available to it (which I believe) and the other about working parallel to it–practicing, reading, technique, etc.
If I’m needing to renew the purpose behind my motivation, but hand it over to inspiration alone, I’m going to become frustrated. Frustration further dampens the sensitivity to life’s subtle influences which continues that problem.
My desire for motivation could be drowning out a distant call. Maybe my need to feel motivated is part of the problem. What happens when I day dream? What motivates that? What do I love? How does that motivate me? Am I thinking too much? (I am.) Am I just craving stimulation?
If I am feeling a lack of interest I can wait for inspiration but I might be waiting a long time. How can I encourage my own curiosity right now? Have I exposed myself to something new? Can I go back and reignite something old? A lack of interest could be a lack of focus. By which I mean: go look at something intently. Should I go to the aquarium/bird santuary/market?
In either case, the only thing I think I can do is follow my intuition and trust that inspiration will arrive when it’s ready. In the meantime: I can focus on other aspects with intent. I find this an empowering idea: that, while we’re at the mercy of divine bestowment, you prepare yourself for it.
Having a creative practice of any kind is an acknowledgment, whether you mean it to or not, that just beneath the surface of everything is a process we don’t understand.
Having a creative practice of any kind is an acknowledgment, whether you mean it to or not, that just beneath the surface of everything is a process we don’t understand. As human beings we seem to be the only ones who use it the way we do. It seems to be a fundamental part of our development as conscious creatures.
We have to live and work with a foot in the practical and a hand in the mystical. For some reason we’re just blind to basically every truth out there.
Right now: I’m interested and I’m motivated to write. Maybe when I get inspired I’ll start to actually enjoy it.
*Interesting is one of the most loaded words out there. I use it way too much.
**Which I do quite fine with by myself thank you very much.