Have you ever had those days where you suffer from a complete lack of inspiration? Where you feel like a creative well that’s run dry? Yeah, me too. In fact, it happens more than I’d like to admit. For someone plagued by the never-ending breeding of plot bunnies, I have a remarkably hard time finding the motivation to actually write. Oddly, the most sure-fire way I have to motivate myself is to declare to the world that I’m not writing. (Sorry, writing group buddies. Sometimes I have to cancel just so the muses in my head will freak out, screaming, “No! You can’t write absolutely nothing this week!” and finally show me the path to the next scene they were greedily withholding.)
But inspiration doesn’t just apply to writing. We need it for all things creative. It plays just as much of a role in creating a masterpiece of art, or choreographing a moving sequence for demo team. And some days, it’ll simply refuse to come when you call it.
I find the idea of inspiration a fascinating thing. Where does it come from? Is it an invisible lightning bolt that shocks our imagination to life the way a defibrillator brings our hearts back from death? Is it a gift from some higher power, sending waves of creative energy coursing through us like sunlight? Is it the whispered voice of a muse dressed like the women of Greek mythology? Or is it just some random combination of neurons firing that creates a delusional escape from reality? Honestly, I don’t know. I’m not sure anyone does. But I do find it intriguing that when a writer talks about hearing “voices,” they’re considered brilliantly touched by inspiration. When anyone else says it, they’re considered mentally ill. What separates inspiration from insanity? The final product? Who’s to say that people with schizophrenia or brain tumors warping their neurological pathways aren’t the most in tune with that magical force we call inspiration. Or that those of us who claim to rely on it for our careers aren’t actually suffering a slight mental meltdown. Interesting stuff, isn’t it?
All I know about inspiration is that it rarely shows up when I want it to. Case in point, I’m now suffering through week 2 of the current inspirational drought. This wasn’t even the blog post I had scheduled for today, but I was too uninspired to finish the original one. Which made this the perfect week to muse about the elusive nature of the muse, so to speak.
I’ve mentioned a few times that I find inspiration through music, going into rather lengthy, and probably creepy, detail about it, here. I’m not sure why that’s my avenue of choice, but it’s always been that way. Maybe I’m mooching off the creative brilliance imbued by the composer/song-writer. Maybe I’m gifted with a finely tuned sense of musicality and I can find stories through the nuances and layers of musical instruments the way others can through dreams or spoken words. Maybe I’m just nuts. But regardless of the reason, that reliable source of melodic inspiration only seems to cover the initial conceptual phase. It gives me the base-line, the foundation on which I have to build, and more plot bunnies than I could ever write, even if I was lucky enough to be a writer that could finish a novel in a few months. When it comes to the actual creation part, the nitty-gritty work part, I’m left to suffer the whims of inspiration like everyone else.
Every writing website, advice article, author/artist blog out there will tell you that creator’s block is a myth. That it’s just an excuse for being lazy, for procrastinating, for giving in to your fear of failure, or for a plethora of other reasons. They’ll all tell you that you just have to power through those days when you’re lacking inspiration. That you have to discipline yourself to create every day. That you can’t wait for the muse to come to you, for the weather to align perfectly, for the fourteen cups of caffeinated beverage to kick in, or for whatever that magic combo is that ignites the fires of inspiration for you. And they’re probably right.
I, however, can’t force it. When I’m not feeling inspired, I end up with this:
“Blah, Blah, more Blah, Blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh! Stuff and things. Blarg. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Oh, and more Blah.”
How would you like to read an entire novel of that? I know I wouldn’t. So I ignore all those lovely professional people out there smarter than me, because their perfectly valid advice doesn’t help me. And I wait, sometimes days, sometimes weeks, sometimes even months for the return of inspiration. Does that make me a lazy, procrastinating, fear-frozen artist/writer/choreographer? Maybe. It definitely makes me slow. But one thing I’ve learned over the years chasing down my dream of making a living at something creative, is that you have to be true to yourself. You can read as many books, blogs, advice columns as you want; take a million classes to hone your skills; talk to everyone you admire whose been lucky enough to do what you want to and make a living doing what they love, but in the end, it’s all about figuring out your own creative style, the strategies that work for you, and the confidence to believe that just because your process may be a little different, doesn’t make it wrong.
And mostly, that inspiration is a fickle wench you can control about as much as you can control the weather.