This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.
― Steven Pressfield
Inspiration is the backbone of our writing career. But many new writers misunderstand what it is and how to use it. Even some of us that have been writing for years can use a reminder about how best to court our muse.
Here are the ways we fail inspiration and how we can make up for our transgressions and become the creative souls we were meant to be.
You only write when inspired
Inspiration arrives when it arrives. There’s no forcing it. But to say you write only when it comes is to misunderstand the nature of this mysterious and magical illumination.
Write often. Don’t wait to put words on the page. Inspiration comes to those who are prepared and one of the ways to be prepared is to master your craft. Not everything you write will be inspired, but as you get better, the likelihood of the muse gifting you becomes greater.
In wanting to master your craft inspiration can show up, but being competitive blocks it. This is so because inspiration is a transcendent aspect of experience ignited by transcendent behavior. In mastering our craft, our confidence and self-esteem grow. They are both facilitated by inspiration and help evoke it.
You don’t give it the opportunity to show up
As mentioned above, waiting for inspiration to strike leads to a hit or miss situation. But we get more hits of inspiration when we take an active role in creating the conditions that allow us to be present and in a receptive state. The problem is we don’t spend much time in such a state in our busy world.
I’ve written about this receptive state in Find Your Writer's AHA!: Discover the Book You Were Meant to Write. To encourage this state, do things to help you let go of the thinking mind like meditation, spending time in nature or simply stare out a window and watch without thought. It takes practice, but this is how to prepare yourself for the arrival of inspiration.
Being prepared by mastering your craft is another way to invite inspiration. Doing the work can lead to inspired ideas. As Steve Pressfield said in the quote above, the muse takes note of our dedication.
You don’t act on it
Inspiration needs action. Ideas come to us more often than we may realize. Only we’re not paying attention or if we notice, we put the idea on the back burner.
The process of inspiration is about expression. Some would say it’s about the Divine expressing through us. If we stilt that process, life literally become uninspired. We close down and shut off our channel to our muse. The important thing to remember is that we can always open it again.
You don’t let it lead
You can either work from inspiration or through your own effort. When you get inspired by an idea let the inspiration lead your work. Often what happens though is you get the idea and then let the rational mind take over.
Studies show what is made through effort can be technically sound but it is not creative like what is made in an inspired state. You know the difference by the flow. When the words come fast and you don’t stop, it’s more creative. When you stop and ponder over the words, you’ve moved down into effort and the work is less creative. This is why it’s best to write in flow first and then edit on the second round.
You don’t use it to set goals
Take a look at these two goals:
I will complete four essays this month.
I will inspire myself and others with my words this month through four essays.
What goal would be more fun? Which one do you want to achieve? The more inspired the goal the more likely you’ll reach it and continue to make and meet inspired goals in the future.
You don’t let yourself be inspired by others
Some new writers refuse to read the work of others for fear they will be influenced and not produce original work. The only thing that happens when you don’t read the work of others is you keep yourself small. You can be inspired in other ways, but reading the works of truly inspired individuals can help you more than you realize.
At first you may emulate their work, but that’s just an early stage of learning. You won’t keep doing it. Eventually you’ll discover the work that inspired you to sameness starts to work its magic and trigger your own unique creativity. Truly, unless you’re working from effort, the work of the inspired can only turn into more inspired work.
Though I was inspired to write about inspiration, reading about it in the article titled “Why Inspiration Matters” by Scott Barry Kaufman in the Harvard Business Review confirmed some of my ideas and helped me add others. I hope you’ll give it a read. I think you’ll find it helpful.
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