When you're a creative person, you spend most of your time thinking or talking about inspiration. You ask for it to come, try to trick it into coming, and when it does come, you use it up only to be left dry again. Then you obsess over why it's so slippery and whether it's possible to build a life in which you can actually learn to summon it 24/7.
I know you squeaked agreement just now. All creatives ask: How do I get my inspiration back? How do I get inspired? How do I keep inspiration from leaving?
First of all, you don't "get" inspired. Rather, you play with inspiration for a while.
The very best definition of creativity comes from author and speaker, Liz Gilbert. She describes it as this playful companion who loves playing with you for a while and then takes off. After a while, it comes back as if it never left, ready to play again.
In a way, creative inspiration is like a kid. It likes fun and hates obligation.
Good news is, you love playing with it. Bad news is, you need it on non-fun days, too. When the deadline approaches and you have the flu, it's really hard to imagine a world where writing is fun again. Especially when it's a world where you can't just summon inspiration like a pet dog. The truth is, creative inspiration will never care about your hurdles. It will not support, nor carry you when you are down. It will just build you up only to make you come down again. That's all it does and wants to do.
This is the hardest truth for creatives to grasp. But it is one we must.
And so, when creative inspiration is so unreliable, how can we take it seriously?!
We don't. We take ourselves seriously.
Again, Liz Gilbert is the best example when it comes to taking yourself seriously. She took a vow when she was young to never ask creativity to support her. Thus for most of her life she simply worked jobs and wrote in her free time. And if you don't want to do that, you can still support your awesome creative lifestyle, but just not the way you hope to support it. You hope that your creative inspiration will allow you to come up with the perfect creative business and it'll be a breeze. You'll create and have fun and make money!
If only it worked that way. It actually works more like-
OMG, I have this amazing idea!
Nah, I started this other thing, it's the most amazing idea!
Man, I've been making ends meet, but this new thing is really going to take off.
I'm enjoying life, creating, and that's all I care about, thank you very much.
I'm making money, doing what I love. You?
Don't ask for inspiration to do your work. It only plays.
And don't put all of your expectations on it as it hates that the MOST.
And if you want this mirage in your head - that dream job, that dream creative lifestyle - to become reality, you must accept the truth: Your creative business does not depend on your creative inspiration. It depends on your willingness to soldier on during uninspired days. It depends on putting in the work every single day.
(Ironically, that sounds like any other job on the planet.)
Go ahead and take yourself seriously. Trust yourself to be able to carry on without your flimsy friend. That means writing on uninspired days, sending emails on uninspired days, and even painting on uninspired days, or whatever it is that you do.
And if you're silently wondering:
But how can I create when I'm not inspired?
The answer is - build a series of successful creative habits that will carry you on bad days.
For writing, a successful habit would be to write every single day.
The result of daily writing is the ability to write whether you're inspired or not. Perhaps the result will not be the most flawless or beautiful thing in the world, but you'll manage to take your point across rather than stew and close yourself up to the world. (Not cool!)
Great artists are not great because of their talent. They're great because they've put in the hours - they say it's at least 10000 - and have mastered the craft so they don't have to depend on their flimsy muses all the time. Mastering a craft and building a successful creative habit is pretty much the same thing. Practice builds habit.
Look at Casey Neistat's vlog. It's super popular, but it's because he had mastered his filmmaking craft previously, and if there was some part of vlogging he didn't hit right the first time, he certainly made up for it by vlogging EVERY DAY.
When you vlog every day, you build the habit, the confidence, and the skill.
You become a freaking vlogstar and that's what Casey Neistat is.
Another "success habit" would be to come up with a trigger or a ritual that sets you off into creative mode. Like setting an alarm for Creative Hour. Or starting the day by journaling. Or checking out what your favorite creative rebel is up to...
There is no one single way to be successful as a creative. There are just a number of ways in which you can set up your life for creative success. Habits constitute the majority of our days, which makes them the proverbial "key" to optimizing work and life in general. So, for example, people like James Clear, Tim Ferriss, and Leo Babauta have build up their entire brands on the idea that you improve your life by improving your habits.
(Probably why the annoying habits of successful people articles keep popping up.)
If you want to learn more about habits, I recommend The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and Zen Habits by Leo Babauta. The first is a book that will show you how habits make or break a business, how they are formed, and how to manipulate and transform them. The second is a blog that will help you create a life of powerful habits.
Because the world needs you to keep going NO MATTER WHAT.
What's the alternative? -> Wasting your potential and growing bitter. -> We both know you're not going to do that because you're a rebel and you're reading this, which means you're ready to take the next step, which is to uplevel your creative life.
The final "key" to an abundant creative life - play freely when inspiration strikes, whenever it does.
If you can't rely on inspiration and you can't summon or predict when it will finally decide to grace you, all that's left to do is use it when it does. Use it all up.
While the success of your creative projects depends on accepting what inspiration is (and what it isn't) and building successful creative habits, this step is so important that without it you'll never live a fulfilling or abundant life. While the first two conditions ensure that you'll be covered on uninspired days, playing freely with your inspiration gives you:
- A bunch of inspired ideas and projects for when you need them
- A backup of articles or whatever you create to finish on uninspired days (can't tell you how many times I've written a bunch of articles in a day, only to finish them later - because finishing and formatting doesn't really require inspiration, does it)
- Something to try when you're really uninspired or bored
Never ignore inspiration when it comes! Even if it comes at the worst time.
Maybe you're under stress because of a deadline. Maybe you have to do menial tasks before you can have fun and play. Well, if you ignore your inspiration, you will miss out on all the things it offers and will have to wait for it to come again. And trust me, the more you play with it, the more often it comes. The more you ignore it, the more it stays away.
EXAMPLE: This article is the third one I've written in a day, after three weeks of writing nothing. While I spent those dry weeks just keeping the ball rolling, I spent that particular day MILKING MY INSPIRATION DRY. Now I have content for weeks to come.
Milking your inspiration dry is your safety net during uninspired times.
During those uninspired times, you still have to publish, produce, and create things. Perhaps the most important rule in Creative Business or even Creative Living is that you must be consistent - whether you have an audience or not. You must create consistently for yourself and for others. Otherwise your creativity is just a hobby.
You can't predict when creative inspiration will strike, but there is a way to coax it out of its hiding place.
While there's no way to reliably predict when inspiration will come, there might be a sneaky way to summon it when you absolutely need to. (Obviously, don't do it too often because your inspiration will totally exhaust you and exhaust itself otherwise.)
Are you writing this down? Write this down.
If you need to be writing right now, but you want it to sing and you feel uninspired, read the book of a favorite author.
Reading beautiful prose or verse or whatever activates my sleeping Muse.
And if you're a musician or artist or what have you, just grab the work of your idols and bask in its magical glory. Or you can grab anything else of theirs - like a TED talk or interview or just an article they've written. I do this when I want to be all psyched for vlogging - I watch Emma Blackery or Tessa Violet, and I'm READY.
Don't get too excited, though, don't copy them. This tool is supposed to get you inspired and creative. Let's just say, my creative rebels never fail me.
And you? What inspires you? Let me know in the comments! (: