Does Inspiration Exist?

A friend on Facebook shared this video (aptly titled with tongue firmly planted in cheek, “The Most Inspiring Video on YouTube“), and I have to say: It’s pretty challenging (and hilarious!).

As a writer and creative, I confess that I’ve often struggled with not feeling inspired.

I’ll let you watch it for yourself, but it raises some fascinating questions that we’ve been discussing:

  • What do you do when you don’t feel inspired? Do you wait, or do you act?
  • Can you create your way out of writer’s block?
  • Is lack of artistic inspiration just an excuse to be lazy?

Inspiration: a working definition

First of all, what do we mean when we say “inspiration”? Here’s Wikipedia’s definition:

Inspiration refers to an unconscious burst of creativity in a literary, musical, or other artistic endeavour. Literally, the word means “breathed upon,” and it has its origins in both Hellenism and Hebraism.

I propose a simple working definition of inspiration as: “a prompting by a force outside yourself (or deeply within) to create.”

Sound good? Great. Let’s move on.

When I’ve been inspired

The hard part with all of this for me is that there have been times when I’ve legitimately been inspired. I’ve:

  • Written beautiful poems
  • Composed meaningful and memorable songs
  • Directed compelling plays
  • Come up with creative solutions to problems
  • Created inspiring and motivational prose

That’s not bragging; at least, it’s not intended to be. Those  feats were, in some cases, truly remarkable, and I can’t take the credit. I really believe that what came out of me wasn’t from me. I was inspired.

The problem with creative people

The problem with creative people, according to my friend Ken Davis, is they can be lazy. They are so talented that they can simply use their creative genius to coast instead of showing up every day to do their job.

Maybe, as YouTuber Craig (AKA wheezywaiter) says, when we say that we’re not inspired to create, we’re really dealing with:

  • Our need for perfection
  • The fear of failure
  • Exhaustion
  • Distraction

I have to admit: some of those really resonated with me. While I’m not sure that inspiration doesn’t exist (how’s that for a double negative?), I do know that I’ve often made excuses for feeling uninspired when I needed to just sit down and create something.

The brutal truth about inspiration

I have to be honest: I am often lazy, distracted, and afraid. These tendencies can often cause me to be unproductive, unmanageable, and uncreative.

My only saving grace for getting stuff done is to simply do the work. It is not easy or convenient, but it is necessary.

Someone recently complained about bloggers who post everyday out of obligation, and, as a result, share sub-par content. I totally get that (and agree about the sub-par content part).

There’s just one problem: I have no idea what’s going to be my best (or most inspired) stuff.

All I can do is show up.

The articles that I’m sure will go viral don’t, and the ones that I just slap up there sometimes get a crazy amount of traffic.

I’ve given up trying to figure out what will be successful and what will not be. I’ve also stopped waiting for inspiration and instead just show up everyday, no matter what, to do my part.

I write to write — not to necessarily get published or praised. I write because I have to. And as I do the work, something mystical happens: I get inspired.

Happens every time.

Once we commit to action, the worst thing we can do is stop.
—Steven Pressfield, Do the Work

What excuses for not being creative have you made? Do you think inspiration exists? Share in the comments.