Kill your Darling: Contemplating Inspiration

09:18:00 Ivvie Bengtsson 13 Comments

If you are a creative soul it's inevitable that you have been struck numerous times by a sensation that is unlike anything else. It energises you more than a strong energy drink, invigorates your mind, and sends your creative side spiralling among visions and ideas. You have been struck by inspiration. According to Oxford Dictionary, the first definition of inspiration is: the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. A definition, however, won't be enough to help you reach a deeper level of understanding on the topic of inspiration. There is more to it than meets the eye.

Everyone experiences inspiration differently

For some it's a jolt that sends them into rapid work mode, they start scribbling ideas, drawing sketches and outlines; other feel overwhelmed by excitement and cannot stay still or talk and think about anything else but when they want to take action they are stumped because they find it almost impossible to focus on the task at hand. Duration is also a variable. A burst of inspiration can last anything from a few minutes to a few hours.

For me, a burst of inspiration comes like a wave crashing all at once. I'm buzzing with energy and I talk a lot about how enthusiastic I am and how awesome my project will be. I start making plans and writing down keywords instead of descriptions, structuring to-do lists instead of getting started on actually fulfilling my plans. My bursts of inspiration last about an hour and usually end with me feeling exhausted and wanting to go to sleep. Not the most productive thing.

There is no universal view on inspiration bursts
Inspiration bursts are often idolised and romanticised mostly by those who don't yet have a solid grasp on creativity as a way of life. It's viewed as a divine strike of creativity that empowers you to achieve anything. Although there are a number of artists, writers, and poets known to be most prolific in such states, they are few and far between in comparison to those who have achieved great things by hard continuous work and creating a habit, as well as getting to know their own creative self. There are countless posts, lists, e-courses, etc. teaching how to superficially trigger inspiration bursts and make them more frequent.

On the other far side of the spectrum are the creatives that shun inspiration bursts. They believe one's mind is clouded and cannot be consistent and efficient during those times. I have stumbled across a few e-courses on how to minimise the impact of inspiration bursts. They are mainly directed at people that find the way they experience inspiration bursts to be harmful to their productivity and creativity.

I personally don't lean towards either of those opposites
I like the hype inspiration bursts give me when they occur but I wouldn't want to increase their frequency because, as I already mentioned, my inspiration bursts aren't very productive. They are just a whirlwind of over-excitement because of an idea I suddenly got. That doesn't help me write a better story, power through a project, or get ahead of my deadline. That, however, isn't enough to make me want to try making them subside as much as possible. I would rather tweak those bursts into something that would work for me instead of against me.

How can you make your bursts of inspiration more productive?    

Analyse them and use the results to your advantage
•    When do they usually occur?
Having even a vague idea will not leave you taken aback and you will have the chance to anticipate and mentally prepare. I would prepare a task to execute when a burst comes and try using the energy as productively as possible, instead of hyping about a far-fetched idea.
•    How excited do you get and what is the aftermath of that excitement?
If you rave a lot and become hyper-energetic when you're experiencing a burst, you probably feel quite tired afterwards as well. In such cases, you should remind yourself of the result and try to direct the energy towards doing something that will be useful to you. That way when exhaustion sets in you will have a sense of fulfilment that you have done something productive.

Don't be wooed by its charms
Although the bursts can sometimes spur you forward, they are not the same as creative flow. They feel great and give you immediate satisfaction because your endorphins level rises. It feels better than pounding away at a project to get yourself into work mode and bring about a steady creative flow. Inspiration bursts, however,  come and go as they please. They are inconsistent and irregular, you cannot bookmark them for later and you cannot fully control them. That is why it's better not to rely on them completely. When you do become overly reliable on them and, irregular as they are, are few and far between, your productivity level decreases. You become less and less accustomed to working towards your creative goals. You become less versed in creating because consistency is key and inspiration bursts do not provide consistency. Be independent from inspiration bursts but do not exclude them or avoid them. Learn to make them work in your favour as much as you can instead.

So, what are creative bursts good for ?
They are often great for coming up with new ideas and gifting you with the desire to realise them. For some people, inspiration bursts are a gateway to a steady productive flow which enables them to complete large chunks of tasks. There is always something you can do to make anything work for you rather than against you. But if that is not the case with you then you need another kind of inspiration.

There is more to creativity and creating than first meets the eye. Creativity is versatile, mind-altering, and can easily become a way of life. You don't need bursts to have that kind of creativity in your life. What you do need is to carry inspiration within you at all times. Let the power and determination it carries be the silver lining to your creativity. Let it drizzle over you, form deep waters; dive in and come back up; float on it. But do not rely on bursts to crash over you like a monsoon and dry out like water in a desert, and bring you closer to achievement that way. Use it when it comes, but don't solely rely on it.  Hard work, discipline, inner inspiration, and an open, clear mind is what will enable you to execute any task and achieve your creative goals.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post and have some thoughts you would like to share, please leave a comment below! Also, don't forget to share this post with your friends on social media and take a minute to subscribe. You can easily do that below!

Till next Sunday!