As creators, we pay a lot of lip service to inspiration, but what does it really mean to be inspired? And how do we go about getting into that state? Lately, I’ve been thinking about the nature of creativity and inspiration and the connection between the two.
Creativity arises out a relationship you have with yourself—a willingness to listen to what moves you and respond to that with expressive action. What moves you, and those responses, changes daily, and inspiration is the bridge between the two.
How does inspiration appear to us in daily lives? Sometimes in very simple ways.
At the onset of Spring, with new blooms scenting the air, you may rush out to buy bedding plants to fill a planter box. Sharing a particularly delicious meal with friends may drive you to open that cookbook you got last Christmas and try a new recipe. Finishing a satisfying short story may prompt you to pick up your pen and try writing your own.
Inspiration is the bridge between a moment that moves you and a moment of taking expressive action. And because of that, inspiration can be invited in at any time.
It’s helpful if we cultivate qualities of presence, attention, and appreciation, because they are what open us to being moved on a daily basis. (When we’re not cultivating these qualities, it may take a bigger event, like a shock or a surprise, to wake us up to the moment.) These qualities improve conditions for inspiration’s arrival.
The next thing we must take responsibility for is choice. How we choose to react or respond to a moment determines whether inspiration is invited in or not. We can close up to the shock or surprise, or we can let it honestly affect us. We can simply pass by the rose in bloom calling us to its fleeting scent, or we can open to it and breathe it in. The word itself is your guide: inspiration, to breathe in and be filled.
You can stop there if you like. You can be filled up as if by a wonderful meal and walk around satiated until the energy dissipates. Or, on the metaphoric out-breath, you can create something. It could be as simple as a feeling of gratitude, or it might be a cake, or it might be the beginning of a poem that will speak to the ages.
The qualities necessary at this stage are: trust, action, and repeated process. These elements are essential to creation. But this is also the most challenging stage. It’s the hardest to follow through on, because inspiration doesn’t come with any guarantees. A moment that moves us arises from a higher, deeper, or larger place than we commonly inhabit. It calls us forward, fuels us with an urge to act, but so often the results of those actions fall short of our inspired vision. We come face to face with the smallness of our own creature selves and this is uncomfortable to say the least. I think it’s one of the reasons so many of us cut off from being moved at all.
If we get this far and don’t want to shut down, we need to claim three more qualities: resilience with a dash of tenacity, acceptance blended with forgiveness, and the resolve to start all over again. We need to keep the door of choice open, that gateway between each moment of being moved and each opportunity to respond.
Moving through the cycles regularly will bring a greater sense of rawness to those moving moments, but your odds of creation will also improve. Inspiration is the bridge, but it is we who choose to make the crossing.