Do You Wait for Inspiration to Strike?
Where inspiration comes from and how to find it.
As I write this I sit in my office, jittery and on edge from two cups of coffee. Two parts excited, one part anxious and one part determined. I feel that desire to write. To create something. At first, I wasn’t quite sure what. I didn’t feel like I was in the right mood to write. I don’t feel grounded. I don’t feel passionate. I don’t feel particularly insightful. I guess I don’t feel much of what I would usually try to cultivate when I go to create. The question is, is that a good reason not to get to the paper (laptop, easel, drawing board) and get to work?
In the past, I have been a big culprit of waiting for inspiration to strike. Like some magical bolt of lightning from the creative gods will be thrown down upon me and genius will pour from my brain, making itself into reality. Hey, it’s happened before. Sometimes I get an idea and it demands to be given life right in that moment, but really, those moments can be few and far between. For someone who is trying to make a career out of a creative vocation or is even just wanting to become a more disciplined artist, waiting on that type of inspiration is just not realistic.
What does inspiration even feel like?
If you are a creative, or someone who has a passion, you might resonate with the idea of waiting for inspiration before you begin your work. Well, what does inspiration actually feel like? Is it a physical feeling in your body? Is it a desire to make an impact on the world? For me, inspiration is really just the spark of an idea. It can come from anywhere at any time and probably happens hundreds of times throughout the day. So, if I have this plethora of inspiration throughout the day what am I waiting for?
When I realized that I have countless moments of inspiration each day, I also realized that it’s not inspiration I’ve been waiting for, it’s the right mood. Maybe this is partly due to my perfectionism syndrome, but I always want everything to be just right before I start creating. I have this fear that if I’m not in the right mood, if I don’t feel a certain way, then whatever I create will be a failure. This is harmful to myself and my craft, in a couple of ways.
Number one. This magical mood I’m waiting for, happens infrequently and irregularly. I would describe the mood I’m waiting for as confident, self-assured, insightful and passionate. Uhh, yeah! Sounds like a pretty awesome mood to be in! Who wouldn’t want to create and engage in their life whole-heartedly when they feel that way? But what about the times when I feel insecure, or pissed off, or just plain tired? I am far from perfect and if I wait for those perfect moods to happen, I’m going to have a lot less time to work on my craft. To create. To learn! By not engaging with my work when I don’t feel “perfect” I’m robbing myself of so many opportunities.
Number two. This is the big one. The imperfect place is actually where I need to be creating from. The messy place, the raw place, the honest place. This is where people will relate to me. This is how I will share who I actually am, because it is not perfect. Whether I’m writing to heal, to help, or to inspire, writing from the uncomfortable places is how I will get there. This isn’t to say that all good art comes from pain or discomfort, but those areas are certainly part of the picture. So, if you are only creating from one aspect of yourself, you’ll only be relatable from that small perspective. On a personal level, you’ll also only be fulfilling a small portion of your creative voice.
How Can You Create From an “Un-Inspired” Place?
It’s one thing to want to fully bring yourself to the table and show up no matter the circumstance, it’s another thing to follow through on that. However, I am here to tell you it is totally possible!!! A couple of years ago I was reading about the elasticity of the brain and how our habits effect our neural-network. Essentially, the more we consciously choose an action, the more our brain wants to do that action. We are literally creating a new path in our minds. I found this concept gave me a totally new outlook on life. Even if at first it might feel awkward, the more you consciously choose to do something, it will eventually become second nature. Maybe that is an obvious idea but having the scientific explanation to back it up, made me much more confident that I could change my artistic habits.
But! Your brain is clever, and it already has comfortable habitual paths it is accustomed to. It might not be so willing to do something new, like write an article when you are tired, or create a new meal when you are anxious, or play an instrument when what you really want to do is binge the latest Netflix releases. So at first, you might need some tools to support you while you expand your capacity to create…
Tools for Creation
I am always striving to reach new levels of creativity as an artist. By no means do I feel like an expert on the topic, but through trial and error I have found a few things that really work for me, maybe they will help you too!
Prompts are something I started using very recently! For the last decade or so I have been in the filmmaking industry and never thought of using a prompt in order to create. When I started focusing my creative mind on writing, is when I discovered prompts. I have to say, they are just excellent!
My friend and I recently had a creativity date and decided to use prompts to write with. We both wrote a word or short sentence on tiny pieces of paper, folded them and threw them in a bowl. Then, we would draw a prompt and give ourselves a short amount of time (between 2-5 minutes) to write like mad and come up with something. There were no parameters or limits on the prompts themselves and most of the writing itself was a free for all as well, though we did do a couple of rounds focusing on certain literary devices for practice.
The results were amazing and we had so much fun! Obviously, we didn’t come out with polished pieces but I have used several of the works I created in a larger piece of work later on. We used prompts for writing, but you could use them for anything.
For example, “create a song that makes you feel childlike” or “paint a picture of a teakettle that has just gained consciousness” the more random, the better!
This is how I came to find Vocal actually! I started participating in contests and challenges earlier this year as a way to give myself deadlines and an opportunity to put my work out there to see how people would respond. You can find contests or challenges in a variety of formats, free contests, local contests, international contests etc. Off the top of my head I know of musical, literary and performing arts contests and I’m sure there are countless others available to you with a little bit of research! I’ll link to the ones I’m familiar with below.
Contests are an excellent way to keep yourself accountable to a deadline, gain exposure and perhaps even win something!
Community and support is everything. I think that sometimes people have this romantic vision of a tortured artist alone in a room with only their agony and their art. To that I say, NO! Having a community of like-minded people can help you go much further than you might on your own. A few years ago, my mentor sat our class of actors down and suggested that we work together to help deepen our crafts and our careers. It turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my creative life so far. It’s really cool to see how different artist's perspectives can effect your process!
Vocal has been a great source of community so far as well! There are some blossoming Facebook groups that have really helped my journey. When you don’t feel like creating, there are people who can hold you accountable, or give you ideas. I would particularly recommend the Vocal Creator’s Saloon. It is different than other Vocal Facebook groups because its prime mission is engagement among the community members. You aren’t as likely to see people just leaving their article links and not interacting with anyone else. You will mostly see posts offering advice, asking questions to get to know other members or providing ideas to fuel your creative spirit.
Meditation has the power to bring you to a completely different state of mind than you experience in your day-to-day life. We are constantly stimulated by media, work and other responsibilities. There is little chance to pause in our current society. Giving yourself the opportunity to take a moment of quiet reflection and observation will stimulate your brain activity and creative juices in a totally different way.
I actually went on a 10-day silent meditation about a year ago and halfway through, ideas just started flooding my mind. I actually had a very clear and vivid vision for a novel. Which I plan to write! I think the removal of all the external stimulus allowed my mind more power to give to other things, like creativity. I wasn’t supposed to be thinking of creative ideas during my meditation but it’s just where my mind went and I discovered it can be a great tool!
This is a fun one! I took a voice class for actors after many glowing recommendations by fellow thespians, and I was so pleased after just one session. The class incorporated stretching, gentle movements and prolonged stillness, all the while we were required to make sound during each step of the process. The sound could be anything as long as it expressed how you were feeling in that exact moment, a sigh, a scream, a whimper, as long as it was honest.
It was a great release but even better was how I felt after. My body buzzed with energy, I felt light and free, I also felt raw and emotional. For me, this is such a great place to create from! I highly recommend you try some physical warmups next time you create if you haven’t done so!
The final tool is a simple one. Come up with a mantra that resonates with you. Write it in a journal, record yourself saying it, repeat it in your head. I have mine on a post-it note right above my writing spot.
When I feel challenged or unmotivated, it brings me back to my intentions.
Creating Your Own Inspiration
Each one of these tools has allowed me to get past that “stuck” place. To approach my craft and creativity from where I am in any given moment. And it has worked! The more I incorporate these techniques and supports, the more I go to creating with ease. Those neural paths I mentioned before are becoming stronger, and winning over old habits. I am so thankful to have been introduced to all of these creative expressions and I love trying new angles all the time!
Hopefully you, the reader, will have taken something away to add to your own toolkit, and remember, it is literally scientifically proven that each day you make an effort, you are progressing yourself on your creative journey.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this story. Your support is greatly appreciated! If you have more support to give, consider giving it a like, a share or a small tip, but really, thank you for your time and energy. xx
Contests for Canadian Writers (Some international writing contests in this list)
Vipassana 10 Day Meditation This is a free meditation that is run in centres across the world.