INSPIRATION: 3 Easy Actions To Experience Inspiration More Often
Her three year old voiced carried so much authority. And it was loud. Even though the windows of our swagger wagon were rolled up, I still looked at the driver next me. Because I was almost certain she’d heard my daughter’s booming command.
Yes, that was my child. The one who just blew the hell out of your ear drums. You may never hear again. And I’m so sorry. But not really, if only I could be so lucky . . .
“Thank you. But I can’t go,” I replied. “All the cars are stopped.”
“NO! GO DADDY!”
My God, what’s wrong with this child? I miss the days when she had to face backwards. When she couldn’t see much of anything. Because driving in those days was so different. And peaceful in comparison.
Because the kid is OBSESSED with driving. And my child knows only two volumes — loud and psycho berserk loud.
“Why is the light red?”
“Why did you turn here?”
“Where are we going?”
“Why did you stop?”
“I hate red!”
“This is my minivan!”
But truth be told, sometimes her awareness of the car, her surroundings, and directions is so amazing. And sometimes, she can make a car ride feel so profoundly . . . badass.
We’re going on an adventure
Recently we were together in the swagger wagon. Some friends invited us to come to their beach house for an afternoon of fun followed by a family style dinner. And it wasn’t going to be a long drive, but in a direction where life simply doesn’t take us often.
We live on a quiet street. A cul-de-sac in a somewhat sleepy area of the world. And our street only has one access point — from a back-street-like thoroughfare.
Living in a town of around 10,000 people, roads endlessly curve. Shortcuts are few. And you have to backtrack some to get to where you’re going. Our neighborhoods, at the least the older ones where we live, aren’t built in perfect squares. So our roads meander.
And everyday, almost regardless of where we’re going, after we come to a complete stop at the t-intersection at the end of our street, we turn right.
But on this day, en route to a new destination, we broke the routine and turned left. And my daughter perked up almost immediately.
Watching her reflection in the rear view mirror, I saw her take in the new angle and the new view. And with the smirk of a satisfied grin, she leaned back and whispered, “We’re going on an adventure.” I think she even nodded her head a bit. I know I nodded mine, thinking to myself — that’s right girl, moments like this, though small to some, are what we live for.
Inspired by adventure
These kind of drives are the easiest. When the primary fuel of acceleration is our own anticipation of adventure. Who needs unleaded gas when the world is at your finger tips?
It may take awhile to arrive. We may have to stop every thirty minutes for a potty break. And we may even have to go to three or four different bathrooms each stop until we find a toilet that doesn’t automatically flush. But it’s okay. It’s all okay. Because we’re inspired by the adventure.
Isn’t that the very essence of inspiration? When you’re inspired, you just know it. Because you can feel it. You work harder, you clean longer, you run farther. But here’s the amazing thing — the task doesn’t ever change. We change. Inspiration changes us.
I live for moments of inspiration
As I writer, I live for moments of inspiration. Those times when everything is firing accurately and on cue. From my brain, to my heart, and down to the tips of my fingers. The words appear on the page at the speed of light — with clarity, power, and precision.
In those moments, I feel like a fucking god. In control of the blank page, and bending it my will. There’s depth to my words. And balls-to-the-wall honesty.
But they’re also rare. Frustratingly rare. The majority of my writing time is complete agony.
Because when I write, I’m processing. My destination is rarely clear, because I usually discover it as I go. You could say, I’m trying to figure it all out as I write. It’s a little messy. Flannery O’Connor says it best: “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
And most of the time, like a car trapped in stop-and-go traffic, it’s painfully slow — with too few openings for a burst of acceleration.
But still I think about new ideas to work through and share. And new stories to tell. I write a word, and then add a few more — hoping at the next line, a lane will open up and I’ll be free to put the pedal to the metal.
You can’t manipulate inspiration
When I was younger, I used to think I could pray really verbose and lofty prayers to God. And then sneak in a strategically placed request for something I wanted — like a girl, maybe a new car, or even fame. Then I’d cloak it in just enough piety, He might feel obligated to grant me my request.
He didn’t. At least not immediately. I mean, I married a chick who probably should’ve just ignored me. My swagger wagon is s-w-a-n-k-e-y. And I’m somewhat of a celebrity to my daughter.
I don’t think inspiration is necessarily divine. But at the same time, maybe it is — or at least somewhat. Like, it comes to us as the shadow of the divine that passes over us when God walks among us. When He looks over our shoulders, peering our work, making suggestions, and guiding us.
And really, all of us have a spark of the divine inside of us. Maybe that’s the core of inspiration. And where it resides. In each of us.
Okay, I admit, that’s a little out there. But maybe inspiration is more mystical than I’m comfortable admitting. Regardless, I’ve learned it doesn’t answer to me. Or to anyone. It doesn’t obey my commands. It can’t be coerced. And my attempts of manipulation are futile. It appears in its own timing — when the moment is right.
Only worry about what you can control
The only thing I can control is my own actions.
It’s the greatest power I have in my hands — the power to choose. To decide to write today, tomorrow, the next day, and the day after that. To show up. To keep working and writing so that I’m in a position for a moment, or season, of inspiration.
We can’t control inspiration, but we can decide to prepare ourselves for it by creating an atmosphere where inspiration likes to dwell.
Here’s three actions you can take to help you position yourself to be inspired more consistently, so you’re writing in the fast lane longer and more often —
Profound, right? But on some level, it is.
In my past, I’ve spent so much time talking about being a writer, talking about starting a blog, and waiting for the moment when it all clicks and everything comes together.
That’s not what it means to be writer. And that’s not how inspiration works.
Stephen King says, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us get up and go to work.”
If you’re going to be a writer, you have to stop talking and waiting — and start writing. And look, it can be total crap. It can be your absolute worst work with very little clarity or meaning. Showing up and filling the blank page is what’s important. Because sometimes, in the chaos and seemingly pointless exercise, inspiration will strike. You’ll suddenly see a nugget to explore. You’ll discover something about yourself to dissect. You’ll see the plot of an interesting story you can run with.
For me, I write 500 words a day. Most of the time, it’s late a night after everyone has gone to bed. I turn the TV off, pull up a blank page, and just start. Many times, I begin with “I don’t know where this will go.” And I don’t, not usually. But as I write what I’m feeling and thinking — most of the time it’s a strange journal-like stream of consciousness — sometimes I begin to sense cohesion around a thought or topic. And I focus more attention upon it. Unpacking what I’m thinking, listing angles to research, and highlighting phrases that stick out to me.
Honestly, many times, nothing comes of this immediately. Sometimes, nothing ever comes of it at all. But I still show up. Because I know when I’m engaged in writing, that’s where inspiration meets me.
I know we’ve all heard this — if you want to be a great writer, you must be an avid reader.
I’m not an avid reader, but I make it a point to read as much as possible — always carrying a book with me in case I have some down time. And I got into this habit because that’s what the pros told me. But I never understood why.
Good writers have the ability to restrain themselves from feeding their readers every single detail. They lay out the plot lines of their writing, but depend on the reader to connect the dots for themselves. It’s an active engagement, or even partnership, between readers and writers.
So when I read, the imagination part of my brain kicks in — and I’m just as much a part of the creative process as the writer. I’m helping to create the scene, the main character, the whole world for myself. Taking it in as my own.
That’s why I might be inspired after reading a chapter to explore a plot that stood out to me. Or unpack a quote from a character. Or recreate a scene from the reality of my own experience.
Your greatest power is your ability to choose. You decide. You control what you do — whether you write or whether you don’t, whether you read or whether you don’t, and whether you show up or not.
Nobody can make the decision for you. You have to choose every single day the actions you’ll take based on what you value. You may feel powerless. And you will until you accept responsibility for yourself and for your action. Don’t wait for inspiration. Or you’ll never start. You can’t control it. Only you. YOU. And every choice, every decision is in your hands.