by Diane Rogers
1. the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.
Recently, inspiration and I haven’t been connecting, and I’ve begun to take it personally.
I feel like a kid standing on the top of the hill with a kite trying to catch the wind, and the moment it sees me coming, it changes direction.
Admittedly, until now, I’ve been pretty lucky to have harvested my share of creative grace. Lately, though, inspiration has become an elusive unicorn. The more I chase its rainbow sparkliness, the deeper into the forest it runs. And here’s me, glitter-less, watching its pounding hooves disappear in the distance, flailing my arms in the air, calling out, “Come back! Don’t leave me! Without you, I’m nothing.”
Trust me on this: when inspiration turns its back on you, it feels a lot like abandonment.
For months, I’ve been beating myself up, wallowing like Bridget Jones in a pity party for one—“Boohoo, inspiration just broke up with me.” Meanwhile, my talented and hard-working writer friends make the process of publishing book after book look easy. I am genuinely thrilled for their successes, but I can’t help comparing their achievements to my pathetic stack of blank pages.
Cue the liturgy of negative thoughts:
“You’re not working hard enough;”
“You’re not dedicated enough;”
“You’re not motivated enough;”
“You’re not a good enough writer;”
“You’re not good enough;”
“You’re not enough.”
There are those who suggest that genius is a kind of innate talent—a gift I didn’t get. Obviously. And if that’s the case, no amount of inspiration or effort will matter. I’m undecided as to whether knowing this makes me feel better or worse.
Cue the Muse
Ancient Western civilizations, on the other hand, once attributed creativity to divine entities, capricious spirits that randomly assisted artistic individuals with their work. In accepting the unknowable mystery of creativity, these societies forged a partnership between the inspiration (supernatural) and the artist (mere mortal). The Greeks and Romans believed the success of an artist’s work hinged both on the individual’s aptitude and the cooperation of his or her “daemon (good spirit)” or “genius.” The ancients widely accepted the fickle nature of spirits and understood that brilliance really belonged to the divine.
So, when author Saul Bellow wrote, “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write,” I have to believe the creative spirits aren’t hauling me out of bed for a reason. Maybe they think I need my beauty sleep.
We’re Only Human
In a recent bog post entitled, To Anyone Who Thinks They Are Falling Behind in Life, Jamie Varon describes the dearth of inspiration this way:
You can show up every day to your best intentions, but if it’s not the time, it’s just not the f***ing time. You need to give yourself permission to be a human being. Sometimes the novel is not ready to be written because you haven’t met the inspiration for your main character yet. Sometimes you need two more years of life experience before you can make your masterpiece into something that will feel real and true and raw to other people.
Despite all the psychological tools I have at my disposal, timing is one thing I hadn’t considered. Time. As much as we try to harness it, manage it, and even control it, Varon is right: “There’s a magic beyond us that works in ways we can’t understand.”
Pure inspiration doesn’t come on cue.
Flashes of insight do not adhere to a project management plan. Sure, you can make space for them, but, ultimately, inspiration itself decides when to appear. Often bright ideas jet in out of the blue at inconvenient times, like when you’re in the shower or driving and have no writing implement. And we all know that every nanosecond of eureka is preceded by hours and hours of struggle.
The tightness in my chest vanishes together with the knot in my stomach. I heave a sigh and release the stockpile of tension heaped on my shoulders. Just breathe, I tell myself. Maybe I can allow myself to imagine that my creative muse isn’t gone forever. Perhaps she is just having a lovely Caribbean holiday. She’ll be back when she’s rejuvenated and ready to work. Here’s a thought: What if she is out there right now on a sandy beach sourcing new ideas on my behalf?
So, it’s not time yet.
In the meantime, I’ll show up anyway to do my part of the job.
Suddenly I can breathe again.
in·spi·ra·tion noun 2. the drawing in of breath; inhalation.
After retiring from a corporate career in business transformation and change management, Dr. Diane Rogers brings her expertise in social psychology to classrooms and families.
Her first picture book, Stand Tall, made its debut at the 2008 Seeds of Compassion Conference in Seattle, Washington featuring His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. A week after the book’s release, the State of Washington selected Stand Tall as an official teaching resource for compassionate education. Diane’s other published works include Emerge, A Story of Confidence, and When We All Stand Tall. To find out more, visit www.drdianerogers.com.
A self-professed global nomad, when they aren’t traveling on or jumping out of planes, Diane and her husband Kevin triangulate between Sydney, Australia, Newport Beach, and their sailboat in the Mediterranean.
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