Why I Stopped Waiting For Inspiration To Strike

July 25, 2014 — 35 Comments
Why I Stopped Waiting For Inspiration To Strike | Joseph Lalonde

There’s something romantic about being a creative. Whether it’s an artist, a musician, or a writer. Everything about the creative process, to those on the outside, seems amazing.

You get to create a masterpiece others can enjoy. You’re sharing a talent you have with the world. You’re able to express yourself. Oh, and you’re always inspired!

Oh, what a crock! I’ve got to tell you that rarely does an inspiring moment hit right when I desire it to.

Knowing this, I had to stop waiting for inspiration to strike.

There’s been stories written about inspiration and how inspiration strikes at just the right moment. I’m not sure I’ve found that to be the case.

Inspiration rarely strikes me when I want it to. I can’t call upon inspiration to bless me with the insights I want to have.

Rather, I’ve learned I just need to write.

The Inspiration Isn’t Here

My wife often asks me before I sit down to write what I’m planning to write for the night. My answer is often: “I don’t know…”

Queue the quizzical look from my wife. And then the dreaded question: “Well, why not?”

I think it’s because the inspiration to weave a tale isn’t here.

Inspiration doesn’t strike when I’m out and about. Inspiration doesn’t come an hour before I sit down t write. Inspiration doesn’t strike as I’m about to write.

The Inspiration Is Here

Inspiration is weird to me. It’s elusive. Inspiration is rarely right in front of me.

That is until inspiration is here.

When is here? Where is here? That all depends on you.

For me, inspiration is here when:

I sit in front of my computer screen

I hit play on my audio mix

I open up my web browser and go to my WordPress site

I begin to type

Rarely does inspiration strike before this time. Inspiration strikes when I take action.

Not before.

Only when I’m ready to do the work. Only when I’ve set my mind on the task in front of me. Only then does inspiration strike.

And then I’m off to the races.

I let the words flow freely. I allow for mistakes. I allow to be led where the inspiration wants to lead.

By the end of a writing session, I discover I’ve written 400, 500, or even more words.

It’s amazing how showing up can make inspiration show up. It’s almost like inspiration is waiting on you.

So stop waiting on inspiration. Inspiration’s not going to strike like in the movie.

Inspiration’s going to show up when you show up.

Question: Have you stopped waiting for inspiration to strike? Why or why not? Please share your thoughts on inspiration in the comment section below.

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  • Steve Daniel

    Great thought. My teacher used to tell us when were keeping a writing journal, to just write. even if it’s “I can’t think of anything to write” over and over. At some point you will find something to write about. I have an artist friend that is the same way. He pulls paper and pencil out and starts drawing and eventually something will hit him and he gets his next drawing from that. Once the method starts, his creativeness kicks in and he takes off.
    I think it is mostly a matter of engaging our minds to a specific task and continuing until the creative sides of our brains are loosed enough to take over. We spend so much time with the “to do lists” of our lives, that the creative side of our brains get put on hold until we take the time to free them up and allow them to be what God designed them for. If you never use that part of your brain, it is like an unused muscle that will wither away, but you have to take the time away from the rest of life in order for it to kick in.
    Whether you start by writing nonsense, the same phrase or just simply getting into your thinking routine like sitting at the computer with your music on, that method is like stretching before a workout. Soon you feel the muscle start working, then you can start in earnest exercising, painting, cooking or in this case writing, and not realize how much you have accomplished until you look back on your work. The thing is, the more often you do it, the easier it gets to do it, just like exercising. So, at least in my life, when you sit down and pull out the pen and paper,or the computer, or whatever you need to be creative, your inner creative being will come out quicker and quicker until it becomes almost a routine.

    • http://pioneeroutfitters.com/AlaskaChickBlog/ Amber-Lee Dibble

      Steve! Oh, LOL, I think we had the same teacher!! My teacher also taught us about “free-flow” and how to sort of “disconnect” from what we KNOW- just let the words, thoughts, pictures that were running through our minds, flow out onto the paper- Ha! I won an award fro it in high school- it was just 10th grade English and the thoughts of a 14.5 year old…with the sound of the clock ticking.

      • Steve Daniel

        Funny, in 10th grade I won an award too. Aparently our teachers were onto something.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com/ Joseph Lalonde

      That’s so cool Steve. Sounds like your teacher had a good plan on how to start writing. It’s just begin and it will come.

  • http://www.ricktheule.com/ Rick Theule

    Oh does this sentence sound familiar!!
    “Queue the quizzical look from my wife. And then the dreaded question: “Well, why not?””

    I’ve been waiting too much lately. I need to plan a writing session and simply begin writing. It always amazes me how many words flow out when I simply begin.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com/ Joseph Lalonde

      Glad to hear it’s not only me that gets the look and the question.

    • http://www.paulsohn.org/ Paul Sohn

      Keep up the good work, Rick! I’m on the same boat with you. :)

  • http://www.jonstallings.com/ Jon Stallings

    i can’t admit that I have fully stopped waiting for inspiration, but I should. I keep a list of “blog starters” (and sermon starters) where I keep a list of great ideas that seem to come at odd times. – Yet often when I finally sit down to write I go to my list and stare blankly at the list. I often ask, now why did I like that idea? – Finally I just have to pick one and start to type.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com/ Joseph Lalonde

      Haha, I feel you there Jon. I’ve got a list as well and struggle to make sense of the words I wrote.

  • http://pioneeroutfitters.com/AlaskaChickBlog/ Amber-Lee Dibble

    Aha! Joe. Yes! This is me, as well. I sit, with a notebook or in from of my computer and just wait… I may start with random thoughts, but soon I catch up with that little inspiration fairy and we are off and running together! I do the same as Jon mentions below- with the “starters” that clicked with me… and they either become something or not- but they are there. Mostly, it is a mixture of what is happening here in CZN, on line, what we are learning (LOL either group) or just something that had to be said.

    Ya know, my biggest inspiration is that it is an honor to have someone come to read. I promised I would write. I will not break that promise, to you or to me.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com/ Joseph Lalonde

      Great point Amber-Lee. Knowing we have people coming to read can be the inspiration and spark to get us writing and creating. Love that idea!

  • http://www.stephenpbrown.com/ Stephen P Brown

    Oh yes! Gave up years ago. As a performer sharing someone else’s work, it doesn’t matter how you feel – motivated, inspired, energetic, worn-out, you must always give your listeners the best experience possible, and there’s no escape in the live environment. As a composer, I write for a need regardless of inspiration. Yes, I use sources, materials, events, muses, stories upon which to base the music, but I can’t recall writing a piece because I felt “inspired.” As one famous Broadway composer said, “Inspiration is for amateurs!” LOL… (Jules Styne. Way before Chuck Close said it.)

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com/ Joseph Lalonde

      Stephen, thanks for sharing a bit about yourself in this comment. I didn’t know you were a composer. I’ll be checking out your work for sure!

    • http://www.paulsohn.org/ Paul Sohn

      Sounds like you do interesting, awesome work Stephen! Thanks for sharing your story.

      • http://www.stephenpbrown.com/ Stephen P Brown

        Thank you, Paul. I hope it is interesting to others – I certainly find it fascinating, and enjoy encouraging others to experience and share live music whenever possible.

  • http://kimanziconstable.com/ kimanzi constable

    I definitely stopped waiting. When it comes to writing I just start. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it sucks but if I keep writing something good always comes out of it.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com/ Joseph Lalonde

      That’s the way to do it Kimanzi. Seems you’ve found this way works as well.

      • http://kimanziconstable.com/ kimanzi constable

        Yes sir!

        • Steve Daniel

          The great thing about the ones that suck is that yo can keep them and either pull from them later and re-write them or pick them apart and put the good portions into a new paper. Sometimes when I’m writing, I’ll think of one of the “sucky” ones ideas or phrases I used, and be able to grab it to use with another paper, sometimes a different thought altogether. Nothing is wasted, when you can turn it into something positive later.

          • http://kimanziconstable.com/ kimanzi constable

            Great perspective Steve!

  • http://www.podcastfasttrack.com/ Carey Green

    I have found that what Jon Stallings mentioned is exactly the case for me. For my non-fiction work (blog, books) I do keep a “list” of ideas that come to me at random times so that I have starting points when I sit down to write. Then I choose what to write according to what “hits me” at the moment (inspiration?).

    For fiction it’s different. At times I just write and the characters and scenes flow out as I type. But many times ideas for what to write have been simmering in my mind for days or weeks before I actually sit down to write them. Those are particularly productive sessions, generally speaking.

    Overall, I think inspiration is a myth, like overnight success is a myth. We all know intuitively that it’s hard work over time that brings about anything inspiring in our work. That is a gift from God that startles me as much as anyone.

    • http://www.jonstallings.com/ Jon Stallings

      I think you are right Carey, myth or not we need to treat inspiration that way. Other wise it is too easy to sit around waiting for something to happen instead of taking action.

      • http://www.podcastfasttrack.com/ Carey Green

        Agreed Jon. Too many times in my life I’ve waited, expecting something to happen to “get me in the mood” or “show me that I should be moving ahead.” But the reality is that I was buying into a lie (of some kind) and got started way too late. I’m finally learning to do the work simply because I have it to do, and because I know that the outcome will be worth it.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com/ Joseph Lalonde

      Sounds like you know what works for you Carey!

  • http://www.paulsohn.org/ Paul Sohn

    Picasso once said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” The creative process of working itself elicits inspiration – that’s the secret. Most people have this preconceived notion of inspiration coming as if it’s like a Eureka moment. However, the more we engage ourselves in the work itself, we’ll have higher likehood of coming up with interesting thought processes and inspiration. Also, one of the other books I read from Roger Martin, Dean at Rotman School of Management, talked about studying other disciplines which may be a source of inspiration itself.

    Keep up the awesome work brother!

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com/ Joseph Lalonde

      What’s the book by Roger Martin?

  • http://www.artistmyth.com Mike Roy

    I like what Stephen King says about ideas in “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”:
    “Good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com/ Joseph Lalonde

      Fantastic quote Mike. I’ve been thinking about reading On Writing. Would you recommend the book?

      • http://www.artistmyth.com Mike Roy

        Absolutely… it’s about one half personal memoir, and the other half is about the craft of writing itself. Even if you’re not a fan of his fiction work (which I am) it’s still very relevant to the whole creative process, not just writing.

        • http://www.jmlalonde.com/ Joseph Lalonde

          Sweet, now to find time to actually read it among all the other books I have.

  • http://www.liveitforward.com/ Kent Julian

    Stop waiting for sure!

    For instance, setting goals create energy, motivation, and movement. Yet most people wait for motivation before taking action. Yet this equation is backward!

    Energy is a result of action, not vice-versa. Therefore, setting goals is the forward, proactive movement of (1) deciding what is important and (2) planning out how to achieve what is important before motivation exists. Once goals are established, energy and motivation builds.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com/ Joseph Lalonde

      Funny how that works Kent.

      • http://www.liveitforward.com/ Kent Julian

        Counterintuitive.

  • http://www.twelveminutemuse.com/musings Barry_Dunlap1

    You’re right, Joe. In all of the interviews I’ve done for Twelve Minute Muse, I have yet to hear about someone picked up off the couch by inspiration, plopped in a chair and guided to write a best-selling novel. It just doesn’t happen that way. We never find a beautiful, inspiring waterfall hidden in the woods until we first start walking down the ordinary-looking path. I enjoyed the article. Keep up the good work!

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com/ Joseph Lalonde

      Thanks Barry!