The Mythos of Inspiration
Inspiration is thought of as the be all end all launch point for creativity. We all chase that light bulb moment, where the world around us gets quiet and we have a creative epiphany of epic proportions. Creatives believe we need to be enlightened and inspired by the ether to create work that is exceptional. Throughout human history there have been different myths surrounding the source of such inspiration - usually with divine intervention and direction. The most popular are the muses from Greek mythology. The muses are ‘goddesses of the arts and proclaimers of heroes” (Hercules, 1997). Yes I get my information from Disney movies, now please, let’s move along.
The thing about creativity is it lives within us, sometimes we just don’t know how to manifest it in the world - which is where we look for inspiration. But if all creatives did was sit around and wait for divine inspiration to strike we wouldn't have the abundance of creativity that is out in the world today. Of course inspiration is part of it all and a necessary component, but we can’t just sit around waiting for it to waltz on by. We need to meet it on the road. If you aren't taking the journey where could it have the chance to meet you?
What is the big myth of inspiration - well, there are three parts. Part one is that it comes from somewhere out there, and part two is that we cannot do anything unless we feel inspired, part three is that it must be a big lightning strike moment of epiphany.
Part one: Inspiration is some external being or entity that will grace you with creativity in godlike proportions.
We’ve already briefly touched on this, but creativity lives inside of us. It’s called imagination. We all have one, and the more we use it, the better developed it becomes and the more powerful and realized our creative concepts can be. Of course we are influenced by the creativity that is already out in the world as a launch point for our own ideas, inspiration can also come from seeing a problem in the world or a conversation that needs to happen and using creativity to give it attention, voice, power and focus. But how we do that and what we choose comes from our own mind and imagination, our own perception and choice. We can’t just wait for something in the ether to speak to us, we need to be working that imagination muscle, developing and nurturing it so that we can execute the wonderful things we imagine.
Part two: Unless the muse has visited us we cannot create.
This is not only stifling and stunting for our creativity, but it puts us in a position of helplessness. We are not helpless when we create. We are powerful. You can’t meet the muse if you hide from it. You have to be engaging with your creativity for the flow to come. There is no way around this. If you put in the effort the effort rewards you. It comes back to this idea of making a touchstone for your creativity; it could be journaling daily, sitting with your art for fifteen minutes each morning or a myriad of other practices to keep consistency alive. Forcing ourselves to create when we don't feel inspired is crucial (not to be confused with forcing ourselves to create when we are burnt out - that is a big no no), but making ourselves engage with our art will help us meet the muse where she is and then we can journey together for a time.
Part three: Inspiration is a lighting strike moment of epic epiphany.
Though it can feel like this on rare occasions like breakthrough moments, the norm is small ah ha moments strung together in a sustainable practice of creative work. They are often quiet and underwhelming, bringing delight in their wake and getting you excited about creating. Sometimes you’re just following the thread of an idea, playing it out to see where it goes and then you realize you’ve written a book without any flashes of genius or moments of glory. Creatives tend to downplay these kinds of sessions as small and unworthy of creativity, but that isn't true at all. These quiet paths to profound creation should be celebrated, I believe, more than the lighting strikes of genius. It is the consistent, quiet, determined creativity that permeates our world daily and gives us beauty and content to consume.
Let’s take the pressure off of the creator to be struck with inspiration and re-write the narrative to say the inspiration is a two way street’ you can’t meet it if you don't leave the house. You can't engage with it if you don’t first engage with your creativity. You can have profound creation and impact by doing little bits here and there and appreciating the quiet inspiration that threads its way into your sessions.
Inspiration is not elusive or divinity. Inspiration is planted everywhere around you and within you. All you have to do is show up, look around and create.