I share this “secret” with many writers — I don’t feel inspired until after I start writing for awhile… as short as 5 minutes, upwards of 45 minutes.
I often feel uninspired, but I am willing to write anyway.
In fact, this is how I work most of the time. This very piece you’re reading has been written this way.
Most of the time, our working conditions are not optimal.
I’m not feeling like doing what my schedule says (because it takes work!)
Or there’s construction / other noise going on.
Or I’m not in the mood for thinking about this project. Or whatever.
I practice working in suboptimal conditions… because that is almost always the case.
And yet, our ideas for projects can appear at anytime — walking the dog, taking a shower, or working on another project. When inspiration strikes, I take just a moment to write it down on my phone.
I give thanks for those moments of clarity… but that’s only like 1% of my day.
The more consequential parts of the day is when I am following my schedule. It’s my scheduled time to write, so I write. In that moment I’m not inspired… but I write anyway, starting with an idea that was given to me (by inspiration) sometime in the past.
But most of my working day? I practice generating flow on demand.
What does help (or at least, gives me the faith to continue despite lack of inspiration) is that I do my Energy Reboot before I start any work session. It takes between 30 seconds (which I do often) or 3 minutes (which I do several times a day.)
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.”
“I only write when I am inspired. And I see to it that I am inspired at 9 a.m. every morning.” — Peter R. de Vries, Dutch Journalist. [Emphasis added.]
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.
Then, I experimented with writing in the morning, which went on for more than a year.
Now, since a few months 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 may matter 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 my personal experience that what Mr. Close wrote above is true.
When I am first writing an article, I don’t know how it is going to turn out. In fact, when I first begin, I cannot see how I will write more than a few sentences, on any topic.
Sometimes I’m already half way through my writing session, and I regret starting on the topic! “I chose wrongly.” But my schedule says that I need to finish the blog post in half hour… so I keep going.
I’ve never regretted continuing, and publishing my posts, even if I don’t think it’s a good piece.
I write and publish on schedule, never 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.
“Don’t think you can attain total awareness and whole enlightenment without proper discipline and practice. This is egomania. Appropriate rituals channel your emotions and life energy toward the light. Without the discipline to practice them, you will tumble constantly backward into darkness.” — Lao-tzu
If we are committed to creating, we’ve got to question our own 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.