I have the great privilege of having Ashley guest post on my blog! She has a great post of y’all!
Hi all. My name is Ashley and I blog at Writing To Reach You. Heather gave me some space here to guest blog and asked me to talk about inspiration. The question I am most often asked about inspiration is, “where do you look for it?” The honest answer is that I don’t look for inspiration anywhere. That’s not to say that I don’t find it many places, but I think it’s easy to put off doing whatever you want to do because you don’t feel inspired. You don’t need inspiration to get started.
I once heard David Gray talk about songwriting. He said that he tries to treat it like a job. He goes into the studio every day to write music. He doesn’t write a masterpiece every day. I bet there are many days when he writes nothing that survives the garbage can. Sometimes he is struck with flashes of inspiration. Moments when all the barriers to creativity are removed and things flow. He has little control over these moments of inspiration, but he finds that the more he shows up to do the work, the more often they happen.
Ze Frank claims that when you act on your creative ideas, new ideas appear. I have found this to be true in practice. The more that I am writing, the more I get ideas for things to write. When I am writing every day, ideas start flying at me from every direction regardless of whether I’m in a position to actually write them down. When I’m not writing a lot, it’s not because I’m not inspired. It’s because I’m not doing the hard work of sitting down in a chair to face a blank screen. Once I’m back in the habit of it, I find creativity again. There is something about creativity and inspiration that feels magical–they can’t really be understood–but they seem to find me more often when I’m doing the work than when I’m out searching for them.
Do the work. Do the work. Do the work. That’s what I repeat over and over to myself. Because not only is inspiration difficult to find when you go looking for it, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, then you probably won’t recognize it. What I mean is that inspiration isn’t meaningful as anything general. You have to form some connection to something you’re already doing. It has to be unique to you.
I was sitting in class one time listening to a guest lecturer talk about climbing Kilimanjaro, and I was so impressed and inspired by someone who made up his mind to do something and then did it that I immediately thought, “I want to climb Kilimanjaro!” Then I thought, “wait, no I don’t.” Kilimanjaro was his dream, but what was my dream? Oh, yes. Being a professional writer. Making my living by writing is my Kilimanjaro! If I hadn’t made a personal connection, I would have left that class thinking that what I needed to do was climb a mountain, but I have no real interest in climbing a mountain, and soon that would just be an idea I had one time. Instead, I made a connection between that initial rush of inspiration and something I really want to do, and it has remained a really powerful idea to me for over a year.
Once I started to think of inspiration differently, I began to find it in the most surprising place. I mean, I would never think to look for inspiration in comedy podcasts, yet so many things that I’ve heard in them have inspired me to write. I’m inspired by music, but I’m not a musician. I just love watching other people do what they do well; it makes me want to do what I do well. Also, it sounds good and keeps me company while I’m writing. I love that transcendent feeling I sometimes get watching movies; a well told story makes me want to tell stories. A moving quote on tumblr can inspire me to write a reaction. Hearing someone talk about how they realized their dreams makes me want to realize my own dreams.
The most important question about inspiration is, “what am I going to do with it once I find it?” Inspiration can be big and sweeping and exciting, but putting it into action is often tedious and boring. This is true no matter how much you love what you’re doing. I love to write, but it’s hard, it can be lonely, and it’s not always rewarding. I remind myself: Do the work. Do the work. Do the work. And I never regret it.