If you have been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame chances are that you’ve seen the handwritten lyrics to Niel Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World” or Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin” scribbled in the margins of notebook pages. As someone who often scribbles an inspired sentence or word pairing on random paper, such as on the back of a bill… many times never to be seen again, it’s amazing to me that these hand-written lyrics have been heard around the world and survived. In my mind’s eye, there is a vast wasteland of creative ideas that have been cast away either for lack of record or follow through.
Inspiration is a funny thing. It’s not something that you can necessarily plan or ask for but it is quite necessary for the creative process. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Inspiration awakens us to new possibilities by allowing us to transcend our ordinary experiences and limitations. Inspiration propels a person from apathy to possibility, and transforms the way we perceive our own capabilities.”
In my mind's eye, there is a vast wasteland of creative ideas that have been cast away either for lack of record or follow through.
Inspiration has always been elusive, thought to be divination or other-worldly and leads the receiver to a heightened state of elevation. But like the unicorn (the artist in me pleads that they DO exist) inspiration is hard for us to either preempt or harness. Instead, it takes us by surprise showing that IT and not we are in charge. A study on the Inspiration Scale by Psychologists Todd M. Thrash and Andrew J. Elliot found that “inspired individuals weren’t more conscientious (than non-inspired people), supporting the view that inspiration is something that happens to (us) and is not willed.” *This may be debatable, look forward to a future post on tapping into creative inspiration.
The word inspiration comes from the Latin inspirare, meaning “breathe into”. Although in my experience “knock into” works just as well. In a lot of cases, creative inspiration has hit me like a ball out of left field, made of hail so that it either continued growing bigger or bounced off of me to melt away where it landed. Those are the ideas that I am currently concerned about, the ones that end up in the wasteland and how to ensure that they don’t.
The truth is, that inspiration while necessary to the creative process (and arguably to the progress of the world) as a muse, she can be extremely rude. A College Professor of mine once cautioned that when it comes to creativity we should throw convenience aside for she likes to concern herself with the three B’s. Those being: Bath, Bed or Behind the wheel. The irony, of course, is that in any of these scenarios we are not outfitted with pen, paper or computer to jot down those ephemeral ideas. So how do we capitalize on these moments, stay inspired and organized enough to follow the course of an idea that when we were intellectually struck with it, thought just might work?
In my life, I have looked to gather them in various places. One being the notes section on my iPhone. Yes, you can sometimes see me driving down the road talking to this application for fear that the thought will be fleeting and I’ll never be able to come back to it. (I do have my Mother’s memory after all.) I also have notebooks, multiple, hidden all over the house. On the computer I use Evernote, which can be accessed via phone app as well. In Evernote, I literally have a folder called Random, one called Quotes and another Inspired Titles and Ideas for Writing among more organized threads. However, it’s the physical notebooks that get me. They are never organized so periodically I page through them. For now, I have been tearing out pages and placing them in an “ideas box” one that can easily be stored when company is over and returned to when I am looking for subject matter ignited by the power of the muse.
In a creative process one is always learning and while it was a hard lesson, I can say that I am no longer tricked by her, the muse that is. While these inspirations are powerful and motivational they come as small gifts in the form of a quote, short sentence, title, visual word pairing or concept for a painting. The bulk of the “work” is filled in through tedious effort on my part. The muse will give you an idea for decorating but she will not clean your room. So I have learned to take it in stride. I tell the Unicorn that I am thankful, throw on a song that soothes me into not getting ahead of myself and don’t forget to breathe.