Sep 3, 2014

How Can You Make Inspiration Come to You?

What if one day you ran out of ideas? Hmm. That doesn’t sound right. Ideas are infinite.

“The philosophy of six thousand years has not searched the chambers and magazines of the soul. In its experiments there has always remained, in the last analysis, a residuum it could not resolve.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Over-Soul”

So you’re sitting at your desk and for some reason you don’t want to write. Or you don’t want to draw, compose your next song, even decide what’s for dinner. Oh, I’ve been there.

“Just as appetite comes from eating, so work brings inspiration, if inspiration is not discernible at the beginning” — Igor Stravinsky

The Forest of Improbable Shapes
by John Magnet Bell


What does it take to get you unstuck? Is it passion? Pursuing a goal? Finding a why for your all your hows?

Arthur Conan Doyle gave up medicine at the age of 27 and decided to write for a living because he wasn’t making decent money as a doctor. “I want to make more money” doesn’t sound like a lofty artistic goal, does it? But it provides some kind of motivation.

Conan Doyle would have serious doubts about the artistic merit of all those Sherlock Holmes stories he churned out: They were too easy to write, so maybe they were trash. Having traveled to Switzerland with his wife and seen the raw splendor of Reichenbach Falls, Conan Doyle decided to off his legendary detective right there.

Sherlock’s first death, published by The Strand, caused a meltdown. Twenty-thousand people canceled their subscriptions to the magazine. ACD brought Holmes back with “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” which he set in Sherlock’s early career. It wasn’t resurrection but reminiscence, and people loved it nonetheless.

Secret Splendor of Night
by John Magnet Bell


You can’t run out of ideas, but you can run out of energy. It’s OK to rest. It’s OK to go in search of inspiration, but don’t count on it to get words on paper, or paint on that canvas, or record a song for you. It’s more important to have a body of work than dozens of brilliant ideas that will never see the light of day.

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