It’s a funny thing, inspiration. So often, it seems like some elusive magical feeling that grants us its presence every now and then, whereas its absence makes us lethargic and the world uninteresting. Which is understandable. We connect feeling inspired with the dopamine rush of motivation we get after an idea pops into our heads. We are intrigued. We follow the idea. We ask questions. New ideas pop up. It’s all coming together! We are in the zone. In those moments, it feels like ideas are flowing out of an infinite source of creativity.
So we spend our time chasing those moments. Chasing the feeling, thinking it came from something we saw, something we read, something we heard. Something external. We walk around trying to find something that we seldom notice is already within us.
Well, excuse my new-agey spiritualness. But it’s true. Bear with me.
The thing is, all those ideas don’t exist by themselves. They are generated. Summoned. Whichever word you think fits best. Sure, they might come out of something that already exists, but they require us, me, you, to form them. You see, I firmly believe it is possible to get inspired by absolutely anything because what causes the inspiration itself is in fact an internal process. It is our curiosity, our thoughts, feelings, reflections, that spark the inspiration.
One of the greatest tools for that are questions. For writers, questions are the root of inspiration. What is that? Why is it like that? Who did this? Why did they do it? Where did they come from? How did it happen? And so on and on. Not forgetting, of course, the ultimate writer’s question: What if…?
If you let them, the answers start emerging naturally.
Ah, but this is where it gets tricky. In order to let the answers flow, we need to trust them – and trust ourselves. This is the ever so lovely paradox of life – in order to float on water, you need to stop trying to float. In order to get ideas, we need to stop trying to force them.
But didn’t you just say that we can generate ideas by asking questions?
Yes. But not to force them. The questions poke the creative bear, they stir up some energy. They carve a way for ideas to emerge.
I love how this process of just asking questions and letting the answers/ideas come up captures the duality of the writing process. Conscious action and free flow. Plotting and letting the story carry you. Ratio and emotion. Planning and letting go. I believe both are necessary for a creative process and growth. And finding the balance is key.
Both aspects, both sides of this inspirational coin, can be practised. Because ultimately, that is what balance is. It is in our daily actions, our daily practice. Balance is not a static immortal state of being. It is very much alive, it breathes, and it is constantly restored through our practice. I do sincerely believe that is how we can find inspiration every day.
And sure, this is not the momentary intense rush of emotions type of inspiration. It’s better. It’s consistent. It’s reliable. There was a time when I would consider those words to signify “boredom” or “trapped in a box”. But with time I’ve come to appreciate this kind of inspiration as the most grounding and empowering one.
So let me leave you with an invitation to implement small habits of mind in your daily life. The next time you find yourself feeling uninspired and searching for an external source of motivation, instead take a moment to pause and breathe. Then start with the smallest of questions and let your internal creative machinery do the rest.