My first step in this treasure hunt, this quest to explore what it is to be creative, to have inspiration, is to search for the definition of “inspiration”.
The Lexicon dictionary offers these two definitions: (1) the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative; and (2) a sudden brilliant or timely idea. There is the link to creativity and there is the aspect of the “sudden” appearance or manifestation of such an idea; closely aligned to that feeling of movement of being visited by something, such as Elizabeth Gilbert so eloquently described in her book “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” (2015).
“Creativity is a crushing chore and a glorious mystery. The work wants to be made, and it wants to be made through you.”Elizabeth Gilbert
A Short History of Inspiration
In fact, the very word “inspiration” finds its source in Latin and is derived from the word spirare, which means to breathe and “in” – basically to breathe life into, to breathe creative force upon.
How to catch this creative force as it breathes upon us before it diverts its attention?
In her book Gilbert takes us back to ancient Greece and its Muses – goddesses that inspired creative thought in the arts, sciences, and literature. Inspiration was not thought of as a “possession” of someone – not as a character trait or skill of a person, but as a temporary state of being, accessible to anyone visited by the muses in their respective areas. Creativity was not so much an individual achievement, but rather an expression of a collective consciousness in which certain ideas sought to be expressed through individuals ready to receive them.
In early Christianity, inspiration continued to be seen as an expression from a higher plane in the form of divine guidance. During the Renaissance we changed our perception of creativity and inspiration. The individual became the sole bearer of inspiration, uniquely responsible for the own creative success and failure. With this changed perspective came the pressure to perform, and a suffering still associated with artists – think of the addictions many music stars suffer from or the writer’s block that haunts many writers.
“I kept reaching for my muses, my wandering muses, floating on clouds filled with their passions.”Chimnese Davids, Muses of Wandering Passions
Inspiration & Abundance
As I am writing these weekly Weekender articles, someone gave me the well-meant advice to not borrow too heavily from my manuscript for my book. The reasoning was that, if I shared too many ideas here, I would run out of content to use in the book.
Interestingly enough, the experience has been different. Having this weekly recurring practice of writing a Weekender article has actually spurred more creative thought and refined earlier ideas, rather than the contrary. This advice would be like someone saying to not love someone too much or else you might run out of love.
I have been quoted to say that knowledge is like love, the more you give the more there is to give.
I find that the same holds true for creativity and inspiration. Once you put more of your ideas into motion, once you create more content whether in writing or through other media, you also get more ideas. Perhaps the Muses know who they should visit to get their ideas into the world 😉
Whatever it might be, scarcity thinking does not combine well with inspiration and creativity; abundance, on the other hand, does!
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”Maya Angelou
Unlocking Your Creative Flow
So what recipe should we use for creative living? Here are some key ingredients.
If you are not yet doing so: carry a notebook or use your phone to record ideas. Whatever you do, catch those bright ideas as they are coming through, because before you know it they are gone. I see more and more people around me using this practice and it does work. You may even want to keep a notebook by the side of your bed at night, because those great ideas have a nasty habit of showing up when they are least expected.
Our experiences and the exposure we have to new experiences, people and places, allow us to create new thoughts. If we want to foster creativity, we need to think new thoughts. We therefore need to get out of routines, whether we do this by visiting a new place, taking a different route to work, learning a new skill, meeting new people or reading a new book. New thoughts or applying knowledge and skills acquired in one area to another area, can provoke creative insights.
Build in time in your schedule for reflection, to be alone without time pressure or other duties. Build in time to be in nature or to do sports. Such activities will allow for the different mental activity that is needed to birth new ideas. Time for some artistic activity, whether it is drawing, coloring, making or listening to music or dancing, can be just what you need to spark your creativity.
I would almost have forgotten, but when it comes to creativity, we can learn from our children. They are somehow quickly tuned in to that creative energy and play seems to be a very good way to get them going… so do you ever play? Do you laugh enough? Play and laughter can help you draw those creative ideas out of your hat.
Finally, we have soared in inspiration, we have rolled over in play, we have courted nature and silence, but one more ingredient is needed in Elizabeth Gilbert’s recipe for creative living. This ingredient is “practice”: recurring practice.
Whether you are inspired or not, make it a habit to practice your craft.
Whether you feel “blocked” or not, put some words on paper or play your instrument and do so every day. With time you grow better and you might find yourself, more often than not, visited by this sensation we call “inspiration”.
In Song of Solomon Toni Morrison writes “If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it.” In this spirit, let us surrender to inspiration and ride it!
About The Author
Lucy Schalkwijk is a women’s empowerment champion, a connector and a skills development enthusiast. She is passionate about connecting and empowering women in the workplace and writes about careers, networking, women’s empowerment, and leadership.
Want to join a tribe of successful women who have your back? Contact the Career Women’s Network Kigali: email@example.com and +250783719431.