Inspiration: Barely a Thing

Every now and then, the right melody, or line, or picture, or what have you, pops into my head. Every now and then, entire plots will unfold themselves before my very eyes, absolutely free of problems and with balanced characters who all have cool names. One of three things happen after the moment of lightning: either I magically and surprisingly get everything down on the first try, or I give up halfway through, or I jot down notes and do my best to keep going after the lightning flashes stop. 

The first two methods rely on inspiration, which is not the most convenient way to plan a story, or write a song, or make any decisions whatsoever. 

Of course, there are great ideas that seem to appear out of nowhere, but these instances will become rare if you rely on them to make your art, and might disappear if you rely on them to finish your art. It's easy for me to become too precious with work, holding it against myself without any willingness to put in the hard work of making it look the way I wanted it to when I was "inspired." Inspiration, that magical, intangible slip-and-slide, comes around more when you care for its children. I've had far more good, useable ideas since I've started following an idea as far as it can go and re-arranging it into its ideal parts (sometimes, that means abandoning a project or radically changing it, but it never means quitting when I don't feel like it). 

Whatever it takes, show up and do the work. Show up and make it happen, consistently, on set days and in set ways. This will train your mind to show up with an idea for your appointment. This showing up also includes waiting and staying in place until the answer comes around. As I write this, I am sitting in the back of my workplace (on my day off), with a coworker guarding the door against my leaving before the blog is written. When I sat down, I had no ideas. At this point, I'm most of the way through this week's post.

If I've learned anything, it's that ideas want to live in minds that give birth to them, minds that develop them as best they can and as faithfully as they can. If caring for a piece of art that is difficult until it is beautiful isn't inspiring, I don't know what is.