Post from June, 2019

You Have to Be Ready for Inspiration

Sunday, 9. June 2019 23:57

Several weeks ago, I was talking with a friend about it being time to write the next blog post. He asked, “Where do you get your inspiration?” I don’t recall my answer, but it was lame, I’m sure. The real answer is that it comes from all sorts of places. Sometimes it’s something I see, or something I hear or something I read. Or it could be any one of those that sets off a chain reaction of thoughts that ends in what might be called inspiration.

Then as I was thinking about inspiration, this week serendipitously brought Austin Kleon’s blog post “It’s not inside you trying to get out, it’s outside you trying to get in,” which posits that inspiration comes from outside. We do not have books, or songs or photographs or paintings or poems inside us. Rather they exist in the universe and come to us for expression. He quotes artists as divers as Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Michael Jackson, and Henry David Thoreau to make his point. Not only do inspirations come from outside, but if we are not receptive, they go elsewhere to find acceptance.

There are at least two implications contained in this idea. The first is that we creatives are not really creators. We don’t originate the ideas, the inspirations. Rather, we in some way prepare ourselves so that we are ready to receive the idea when it comes. Then we snatch it out of the air or ether or wherever it is and write it or paint it or sculpt it or do whatever we do. Cave as much as says this in his advice to a “blocked” songwriter.

The second implication is contained in the first. It is that we as artists must make ourselves ready to seize inspiration when it does arrive. As I have written before, inspiration is not something that we can always count on. Sometimes it comes; sometimes it doesn’t. What is important is that we are ready, which means that we show up, we exercise discipline, we do the work—every day. And that showing up and doing the work readies us for inspiration. As Kleon puts it in one of his blackout poems:

the Muse

is ready to

surprise me

if

i

show   up every day

and

say,

“Wanna hang out?”

Art is, at least in part, about making connections and seeing patterns. The inspiration triggers a set of ideas which ends in our making those connections and seeing those patterns. And if we don’t figure out a way to ready ourselves, then the inspirations fly by unnoticed. Connections don’t get made; patterns don’t get recognized.  We call that “being blocked.” Then we often bear down, which closes us off even more from the universe, and then we really are creatively blocked.

It’s not really magical, although it may look and sound that way. It may not even be mystical, although some would argue with that. It is simply doing the work that is required to be creative and doing it regularly, putting ourselves in a mental and physical place to be receptive to our own flow of ideas and not thinking so hard in a single direction that we close out other possibilities. Only when we are open can a new idea develop. Then all we have to do is recognize it and do something with it.

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