I share this “secret” with many creators — I don’t feel inspired until I’ve already started creating… as short as 5 minutes, upwards of 45 minutes.
I often feel uninspired. But I am willing to try.
It’s how I start my work most of the time. This very piece you’re reading started with an uninspired mood.
Working conditions don’t seem ideal to me, most of the time:
I’m either not feeling like doing what my schedule says…
Or there’s construction or other noise going on…
Or I’m not in the mood for thinking about this project.
As a result, I’ve had lots of practice working in suboptimal conditions… because that is almost always the case.
Here’s the thing — ideas for projects can appear at any time. Walking the dog. Taking a shower. Working on another project. The few times that inspiration does strike, I take a moment to write it down on my phone. (In the shower, I memorize the idea and immediately write it down after I finish showering.)
I give thanks for those moments of clarity… but honestly, it’s less than 5% of a typical day.
Most of the day, you’ll find me simply, humbly following my schedule. If it’s my scheduled time to write, I try to write. When I begin, I’m not inspired… but I write anyway, starting with an idea that was given to me (by inspiration) sometime in the past. (As I mentioned, it helps to keep a list of ideas.)
Most of the day, I have to practice generating flow on demand.
What does help — gives me the faith to continue despite lack of inspiration — is my Energy Reboot, which I do before starting any work session. It takes 30 seconds. Therefore, it’s easy to do often.
The great composer Tchaikovsky said:
“I sit down to the piano regularly at nine-o’clock in the morning and The Lady Muses have learned to be on time for that rendezvous.”
Dutch journalist Peter R. de Vries said:
“I only write when I am inspired. And I see to it that I am inspired at 9 a.m. every morning.”
Interesting that they both say 9am.
When I first began to write (trying to overcome writer’s block), I wrote at night, right before bed. That worked well for 6 months.
Then, I experimented with writing in the morning, which worked well for several years.
Now, since about 2 years ago, I’ve been writing in the afternoons, and it seems to work just as well.
So perhaps it doesn’t really matter what time of day? What matters more is one’s commitment and follow-through.
With ongoing experience in an activity, we grow confidence. With mindfulness brought to our actions, we grow skill.
The celebrated painter Chuck Close said:
“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.” [Emphasis added.]
More than 1,000 videos and blog posts later, I can confirm from experience that what is written above is true for me as well.
When I am first writing a blog post, I don’t know how it is going to turn out. Oftentimes, I cannot easily see how I will write more than a few sentences about the topic.
Sometimes I’m already halfway through my writing session, and I regret starting. “I chose the wrong topic!” But my schedule says that I need to finish the blog post in half an hour… so I keep going.
I’ve never regretted continuing and publishing, even if I didn’t think it was worth publishing.
I write and publish on schedule, usually not feeling like it when I begin, but always feeling glad afterwards.
That’s when I know I’m following my purpose, and experiencing growth — working through creative discomfort, doing it anyway, and then feeling good at the end.
“Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don’t feel like doing them.” — Julius Erving, basketball legend.
“I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has to get down to work.” — Pearl Buck, celebrated Novelist.
If you are committed to creating, you’ve got to question your discomfort and uncertainty during the very act of work. It’s normal to doubt that we can do it. It’s fine to be baffled by where the direction is supposed to go with any creative piece.
Always remember the normality of creative discomfort. We all experience it, at every stage of the game.
I feel the same discomfort today that I did years ago when I started writing. The key difference is that now, I’ve experienced again and again the necessity of working through it.