I experienced a fresh horror this morning. It was one of those all-hands-on-deck weeks where we were all spinning many plates at once, and in a moment of desperation, I did a quick Google search for “finding inspiration”.
Instead of a trove, I found what could only be described as a clickbaitey abyss. Articles steeped in myopia like “25 simple ways for entrepreneurs to find inspiration”, “Feeling uninspired? Here are our 6 ways…”, and “3 ways to find inspiration” elbowed their way to page one, and so too, did my own despair. If I wasn’t inspired before, I certainly wasn’t after the search.
Okay, so maybe this is a bit dramatic - I always did have that flair. But aside from the fact that marketers do try to write and publish these well-intentioned, long-form think pieces to offer insight, page one of Google is pocked with the many that fall dramatically short in scope and clarity anyway. In what seems to be a self-fulfilled ploy to mistake any realistic answer for a clear-eyed well of inspiration, they fail to offer any nuanced, unique approach to what it might actually mean to seek and find inspiration.
The Golden Ticket
I’ve been listening to an audiobook of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s, “Good Omens” while running in the evenings. Catching my breath, I’ve been straining my ears to focus on the words of the two authors rather than the sounds of the road beneath me. But one passage--about one character wondering why she can’t see another character's aura--has become something of an earworm I can’t shake.
“It might, or might not have helped Anathema get a clear view of things if she’d been allowed to spot the very obvious reason why she couldn’t see Adam’s aura. It was for the same reason that people in Trafalgar Square can’t see England.”
Similarly, inspiration is not small or compartmentalized, and it’s not something that comes to you when you least expect it. It’s a sprawling, organic sort of thing; it’s a pool where both sides are the diving end; it’s many things to many people, but most of all, if you look too close, you’ll miss it.
Before you even start to look, you have to know you first -- how you listen to things, how you read, how you understand and perceive the world around you is step one. Look to the right places -- books, journals, think pieces, podcasts, music, movies, the list goes on and on. Start where you know you best and see where that takes you.
Out from Under the Rug
Sometimes apathy and stress really are just the price you pay for having a cluttered desk, schedule and mind. For example, taking short breaks as you pivot from project to project are healthy, and even encouraged. But if you’re leaving your Facebook or Twitter apps open in another tab or on your phone during your project time, then you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Similarly, as a Lifehacker article pointed out, “a team of UCLA researchers recently observed 32 Los Angeles families and found that all of the mother's stress hormones spiked during the time they spent dealing with their belongings. Similar to what multitasking does to your brain, physical clutter overloads your senses, making you feel stressed, and impairs your ability to think creatively.”
Declutter your area, clear your tabs and there you’ll find a clearer mind. I won’t say “it’s as simple as that”, but magic happens along those lines.
Take Your Time
After years upon years of telling myself, “I just need to be inspired before I start writing”, I’ve decided to stop waiting. Inspiration doesn’t happen to those who wait for it, but to those who make it happen; inspiration takes carefully curated time and intentional living.
So I’ve started with my music listening habits. With a Spotify playlist for every season, for every mood, for every project, for when I’m in a pinch, I’ve created a soundtrack for inspiration to happen. Gone are the days where I wait -- if I want to knock projects out of the park rather than aimlessly scroll through Twitter, I have to fight for it.
For example: for tasks like writing, it helps to have songs that are word-light, so your brain can use the tones to block out distractions around you, and focus on the words from within. Here’s one of my favorites from my own playlist:
At the end of the day, no one is getting in your way more than you. Well, that and maybe Google’s search algorithm, but that’s a blog post for another day.