For anyone who creates, inspiration is gold.
When we feel inspired, we make things. It’s like a jolt of energy, a spark in the darkness. What once felt so difficult seems to flow with ease.
The problem with inspiration, though, is that it hardly ever comes. When we look at world class works of art, we imagine that it just happened upon brilliant people because they were born, well, brilliant. Songs coming out of thin air in a massive L.A. studio. Book writing over a balcony off the coast of Italy.
That’s the story we want to hear. But the truth is, it’s plain old work. Hard work. What actually makes art world class is the tenacity and scary commitment an artist has to creating. They can’t be stopped. Their vision won’t be interrupted.
When I asked Brian Johnson about his songwriting process, he said, “I work my butt off.” While you don’t necessarily need to lose your gluteus maximus in the process, you do need to expect work. Time. Sweat. Wrestling.
Aren’t you glad you read this today?
I love what Stephen Pressfield says about inspiration in The War of Art:
“The true professional doesn’t wait for inspiration. He works in anticipation of it.”
But the question could be asked: “How can we increase our chances of being inspired? How can we place ourselves in the right environments and frame of mind to feel the spark of creativity more often than not?” I feel that’s a better alternative than just waiting for some mystical feeling to arrive on the scene as we binge watch the latest Netflix drama.
Are you with me?
Five Steps to Increasing Inspiration in Your Life
As I reflect on years of songwriting, blogging and podcasting, here are a few things I’ve learned:
1. Take Time to Reflect – Many of us are in “go” mode all of the time. We’re constantly doing tasks, managing appointments and putting in a lot of hours. We are busy. But “busy” doesn’t mean important or productive. It may just mean you’re hiding from the real work or don’t know how to manage your life. So you keep saying “yes” to everything that comes your way.
Without intentional moments of reflection every month, every week, every day, your mind won’t slow down enough to process the lessons the Holy Spirit is teaching you. You just keep taking in new information but not reflecting on it. Reflection helps you hear what God is saying and can give you the jolt you need to write that chapter, tweak that chorus or paint that landscape. Every month, every week, every day, find reflection time.
2. Balance Input and Output – For any creative, there needs to be a fine balance between what you consume and what you create. If all you do is consume, you are like a person who eats and eats and never, well, goes to the bathroom. I apologize for that analogy, but it’s true. You’re filling yourself up but not giving out. That presents all sorts of problems.
But if all you do is create and you never take the time to be inspired by other artists, you won’t create your best work. You’ll dry up. It’s a like a car trying to reach a destination without any oil or gas. Not a healthy scenario.
I saw an Instagram pic of Mark Batterson as he’s working on his next book. His office is filled with other books. It could be said you are the sum total of all the books you have read and applied. Or all the records you have studied and learned from.
Consume great literature, new music, great works of art, but don’t stop there. Create!
3. Collaborate – Any time I’m in a songwriting funk, I like to get around other great writers. Almost every time, there’s an instant increase of inspiration. Why? Because another writer thinks differently, has different skills.
If you want to increase your inspiration, don’t just create by yourself, in a vacuum. Get around other people who do what you do, better than you.
Matter of fact, search out people who are better. Don’t think of yourself too highly. Learn from someone older. Learn from someone younger. Be a lifelong learner.
4. Stay Light – Don’t allow bitterness, insecurity and striving to win the day. Smile. Spend your day encouraging others. Maintaining this outlook and disposition will cause your heart to be more open to receiving inspiration.
Don’t approach your art as a means to get ahead, a vessel of comparison. Think of it as a gift to be shared, a way to connect with others.
5. Do the Work – Don’t wait for inspiration, chase it. If you wait for it to appear, you won’t create much. Set an appointment on your calendar and show up for work. Maybe that’s 5 a.m. Maybe that’s 9 p.m. when the kids go to bed.
There will never be a season of your life where there is enough time. You have to make time. You have to chase it down.
Let’s close with a little kick in the pants from Elizabeth Gilbert from her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear:
“Your fear will always be triggered by your creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome, and fear hates uncertain outcome.”
So don’t let fear rule the day. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. It’s actually what you need to step into.
I’d love to hear from you. What projects do you need to chase down? What do you want to create?
Let’s talk about it in the comments and encourage each other to chase it down.
This article originally appeared here.